UPDATE | Marshall University expels student accused of sexually assaulting two other students

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 6/12/19 @ 7 p.m.
A Marshall University student, who is now facing new sexual assault charges, has been expelled from the university.

The university announced Wednesday morning that Joseph Chase Hardin, 22, had been expelled from the university for disciplinary reasons, citing the university's SA-3 Student Conduct Disciplinary Procedures.

The university says it determined that Hardin violated the Board of Governors Policy GA-1, as it related to sections 3.3.4 and 3.4.1

Section 3.3.4 says: "Sexual Harassment" is a form of discrimination that includes verbal, written, or physical behavior of a sexual nature, directed at someone, or against a particular group, because of that person's or group's sex, or based on gender stereotypes, when that behavior is unwelcome and meets either of the following criteria."

Section 3.4.1 says: "Sexual Misconduct" is defined as any act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without effective consent or when an individual is unable to freely give consent.

Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert said in a statement, "We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive steps to make sure the entire Marshall community is safe. I have zero tolerance for inappropriate, illegal behavior, and pledge that we will always treat sexual misconduct and violence with the utmost gravity. The safety of our students is our first obligation."

WSAZ once again asked for an interview with President Gilbert, but that request was denied.

University officials say the decision to expel Hardin is final.

WSAZ also asked the university why Hardin was expelled with these latest charges but wasn't with the last charge.

This is the response WSAZ was given from university officials: "FERPA (the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) only allows us to disclose the name of the student, the violation committed and the sanction imposed."

The decision to expel Hardin came on the same day as his court appearance, where he waived his preliminary probation revocation hearing.

This was the first step to revoking his probation because of new sexual assault charges against him. Those charges were just filed on Friday. They stem from the alleged off-campus rapes of two students last fall.

Hardin has been out on probation since 2017, when he entered a Kennedy plea to a lesser charge of battery in the 2016 case. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but Judge Alfred Ferguson suspended that sentence and gave him three years of probation. Following these new charges, prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Hardin's case will now return to Judge Ferguson's courtroom for a final probation revocation hearing. A date for the hearing in Judge Ferguson's courtroom has not been set yet.

Friends and family of both the two latest alleged victims and the 2016 victim were in the courtroom Wednesday. However, WSAZ is not identifying the victims.

"If we step down, he will assault another woman," said Madison Summers, a friend of the 2016 victim. "I hope he gets the maximum. I really do. I think if he is in prison for the rest of his life, then that is justice. At least a little bit of justice."

Keith Gonzales, the grandfather of the 2016 victim, was also there. He says he is hoping his granddaughter's case will urge other victims to tell their stories.

"To see how that played out the first time with my granddaughter, and to know she didn't get the justice that she deserved, and now to see this, my prayer is that justice will be served and that other women this has happened to, that they speak up," Gonzales said. "To know that it took this long for him to finally get what he deserves, I hope it's just the beginning. I really truly believe he needs to be found guilty on all these charges and given the fullest extent of the charges and then be put away where he won't hurt anybody anymore."

The victim of the 2016 case still has an open Title IX lawsuit against the university board of governors, claiming the university failed to protect her from Hardin by allowing him to remain a student even after being convicted on a lesser charge of battery in the case.

No ruling has been made on that lawsuit.

WSAZ reached out to Hardin and his attorney for comment. However, those requests were denied due to the ongoing case.



UPDATE 6/12/19 @ 5:45 p.m.
The YMCA of Huntington released a statement about the arrest of a staff member -- a student at Marshall University who is facing sexual assault charges for the second time.

Joseph Chase Hardin, 22, is facing four counts of second-degree sexual assault. According to court records, Hardin is accused of attacking two female students on separate occasions off campus in the fall of 2018.

He was also arrested for sexual assault in 2016 after a female student said he assaulted her on campus, but he was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor battery charge after entering a Kennedy plea. That type of plea means the defendant accepts punishment, but does not admit guilt.

WSAZ reported Tuesday that Hardin is an employee of the YMCA in Huntington and he has worked there since before the first incident three years ago.

Hardin was already working at the Huntington YMCA when he was arrested on the sexual assault charge in 2016 as a 19-year-old. Employees say he continued to work at the May building after his arrest. They tell us when Hardin was arrested, it wasn't a secret. Several female employees were not comfortable with him still working at the facility after his conviction.

The YMCA of Huntington released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"At the YMCA of Huntington, the safety and well-being of our members, participants and staff is a top priority. We are troubled by the recent arrest of and charges facing one of our employees. Due to the charges against him, his employment has been suspended without pay. We are deeply saddened by the alleged actions, and our thoughts are with the alleged victims.

    The alleged incidents took place away from our facility and in no way involved or put at risk children in our care.

    A full criminal background check and reference check was performed on this staff member at the time of his hire, and he did not have any previous arrests or areas of concern. However, in light of this incident, we are reviewing our hiring, monitoring and training policies to ensure that YMCA of Huntington is utilizing industry-best practices and that we continue to serve Huntington and the Tri-State area with distinction and pride, as we have for more than 134 years.

    The YMCA of Huntington is fully supporting the Huntington Police Department during its investigation and will continue to do so. Because there is an ongoing investigation, all questions about the alleged incidents should be directed to the Huntington Police Department.

    The YMCA of Huntington is a people-focused organization committed to enriching lives and strengthening communities. Our actions are guided by our core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. These values call us to treat our employees – and all people – with compassion, fairness and dignity."

Marshall announced Wednesday the school has expelled Hardin. His expulsion took effect Tuesday, June 11. A university spokeswoman says the decision is final.

The university drew backlash following Hardin's first arrest in 2016 for allowing the suspect to remain a student. Hardin has been continuously enrolled as a student since 2016.

In that first case, Judge Alfred Ferguson sentenced Hardin to a year in jail, but suspended that sentence and gave him three years of probation. Following these new charges, prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Hardin appeared before Judge Gregory Howard Wednesday morning and said he wanted to waive a preliminary probation revocation hearing. The case will now return to Judge Ferguson's courtroom for a final sentencing.

A date for the hearing in Judge Ferguson's courtroom has not been set yet.

UPDATE 6/12/19 @ 9:56 a.m.
Marshall University has expelled a student who is facing sexual assault charges. The student also appeared in court Wednesday morning in connection with his criminal case.

University officials say Joseph Chase Hardin, 22, violated the student conduct policy.

This is the second time Hardin has been charged with sexual assault since being a student at the university. He was arrested for sexual assault in 2016 after a female student said he assaulted her on campus, but he was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor battery charge after entering a Kennedy plea. That type of plea means the defendant accepts punishment, but does not admit guilt.

He currently faces four new counts of sexual assault. According to court records, Hardin is accused of attacking two women on separate occasions off campus in the fall of 2018.

University officials confirmed to WSAZ Wednesday that the women alleging attacks in 2018 are also students. They were enrolled in the fall 2018 semester, the spring 2019 semester, and are registered for the fall 2019 semester.

“We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive steps to make sure the entire Marshall community is safe," said President Jerome A. Gilbert. "I have zero tolerance for inappropriate, illegal behavior, and pledge that we will always treat sexual misconduct and violence with the utmost gravity. The safety of our students is our first obligation.”

His expulsion took effect Tuesday, June 11. A university spokeswoman says the decision is final.

"Marshall University has expelled Joseph Chase Hardin for disciplinary reasons in accordance with the university’s SA-3 Student Conduct Disciplinary Procedures," a press release from the university states. "The university determined Hardin violated Marshall University Board of Governors Policy GA-1 as it relates to sections 3.3.4 {Sexual Harassment} and 3.4.1 {Sexual Misconduct}."

The university drew backlash following Hardin's first arrest in 2016 for allowing the suspect to remain a student. Hardin has been continuously enrolled as a student since 2016.

He was 19 years old at the time. According to the police report filed at the Marshall University Police Department, a female student accused Hardin of assaulting her in February of 2016. He was originally charged with second-degree sexual assault in that case, but entered a Kennedy plea on Jan. 11, 2017 for a misdemeanor battery charge.

In that first case, Judge Alfred Ferguson sentenced Hardin to a year in jail, but suspended that sentence and gave him three years of probation. Following these new charges, prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Hardin appeared before Judge Gregory Howard Wednesday morning and said he wanted to waive a preliminary probation revocation hearing. The case will now return to Judge Ferguson's courtroom for a final sentencing.

A date for the hearing in Judge Ferguson's courtroom has not been set yet.

UPDATE 6/11/19 @ 5:50 p.m.
We're learning new details about the Marshall University student who has been arrested again on sexual assault charges.

As we first reported Monday, Joseph Hardin, 22, faces four counts of sexual assault of two women on separate occasions last fall off campus.

This is the same man who was charged with sexual assault in 2016, leading to a backlash from students about how the university handled the case. For more on this part of the story, scroll down to read previous versions of the story.

Now we can tell you, Hardin is an employee of the YMCA in Huntington and he has worked there since before the first incident three years ago.

Leadership at the ‘Y’ refused to do an interview, but many female members are not happy.

"It's very concerning," said one member we’re going to call ‘Anne’ because she didn’t want her real name used.

Hardin was already working at the Huntington YMCA when he was arrested on a sexual assault charge in 2016 as a 19-year-old.

Months later, he took a Kennedy plea on a lesser battery charge, meaning he accepted the punishment but didn't admit guilt.

Employees there said after that, he continued to work at the May building.

"As a female, it's never a comforting feeling whatsoever," Anne said.

"I totally don't understand that,” added “Betty,” a mother of a YMCA member who also didn’t want her face shown. “I don't know how they could employ someone with that kind of a record."

Although some members recognized Hardin, none said they've ever felt uncomfortable here, either from him or anyone else.

YMCA employees tell us when Hardin was arrested in 2016, it wasn't a secret. Several female employees were not comfortable with him still working at the facility after he took the Kennedy plea.

Anne and Betty feel the same way, concerned that ‘Y’ leadership knew about the charge and the plea and continued to employ him.

“It does. It does. I don't understand it," Betty said.

"You would think a place that a lot of students come and families, children, that would be something they should take more seriously and maybe should have been let go," Anne added.

YMCA Executive Director Brian Byrd refused to do an interview Tuesday. He would only say Hardin was placed on administrative leave last week.

But members are concerned someone facing sexual assault charges for the second time was not let go the first time.

"Sexual assault is one of many issues that can't be swept under the rug. If it happens once it's likely to happen again,” Anne said. “Having someone working where there's children ... it's not the type of person you want around your kids."

We tried to talk to Cabell County Prosecutor Corky Hammers about why the initial charge was dropped back in 2016. But because of the pending case he could not comment.

Hardin remains in the Western Regional Jail Tuesday night with no bond set.

We asked for an interview with him there, but the Department of Corrections policy refuses all interview requests and prohibits any cameras or even notebooks inside the jail.

He's due in court Wednesday morning for a hearing to revoke his probation from the 2016 case.



UPDATE 6/11/19 @ 4:05 p.m.
Marshall University on Tuesday released a statement about a student who faces four counts of sexual assault after facing similar charges in 2016.

Here is the university's statement in full:

"Marshall University is diligently pursing every option available, within the bounds of legal and privacy limits, to address the newest allegations against Mr. Joseph Chase Hardin, a Marshall student, and to keep its campus safe. To that end, the university is now in the process of determining appropriate disciplinary action and anticipates a final decision will be made within 24 hours.

"Marshall continues to take very seriously its commitment to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. The university routinely implements prevention programs, education about the importance of bystander intervention and provides support to any student who has experienced any form of assault, including sexual assault.

"Due to federal privacy regulations, the university will not be releasing any additional information about this situation until a final disciplinary decision is reached and a follow-up statement is issued by close of business tomorrow, Wednesday, June 12."

The indictment claims Joseph Hardin, 22, sexually assaulted two female victims. According to the allegations in the court documents, one incident happened on Sept. 1, 2018 and the other happened on Oct. 7, 2018. There are two counts of second-degree sexual assault for each victim.

The Huntington Police Department is investigating both incidents. Police Chief Hank Dial tells WSAZ the alleged crimes did not happen on Marshall's campus.

Hardin was on probation when these alleged assaults happened. One of the conditions of his probation is that he does not commit any other crimes. In the face of new accusations, prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/10/19 @ 10 p.m.
WSAZ obtained the grand jury indictment that charges a current Marshall University student with four counts of sexual assault. The student was arrested for the same charges back in 2016, but ended up entering a plea and getting probation.

The indictment claims Joseph Hardin, 22, sexually assaulted two female victims. According to the allegations in the court documents, one incident happened on Sept. 1, 2018 and the other happened on Oct. 7, 2018. There are two counts of second-degree sexual assault for each victim.

The Huntington Police Department is investigating both incidents. Police Chief Hank Dial tells WSAZ the alleged crimes did not happen on Marshall's campus. No other details have been released at this point.

Hardin was on probation when these alleged assaults happened. One of the conditions of his probation is that he does not commit any other crimes. In the face of new accusations, prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Court documents claim Hardin also violated his probation by drinking alcohol. The documents state, "Condition number 10 of the defendant's terms and conditions is: 'You will not have, buy, drink, or be with anybody drinking beer, liquor, or wine. You will not be in or around any bars.'" According to the court records, Hardin admitted to drinking a glass of wine on Jan. 20, 2019 "and tested positive for Ethanol."

Hardin received probation after he was arrested in May of 2016. He was 19 years old at the time. According to the police report filed at the Marshall University Police Department, a female student accused Hardin of assaulting her in February of 2016.

He was originally charged with second-degree sexual assault in that case, but was ultimately convicted on a misdemeanor battery charge. Hardin entered a Kennedy plea on Jan. 11, 2017. That type of plea means the defendant accepts punishment, but does not admit guilt.

Judge Alfred Ferguson sentenced Hardin to a year in jail, but suspended that sentence and gave him three years of probation.

Following the alleged probation violations, prosecutors want Hardin's one-year jail sentence reinstated with time served. Hardin will have a hearing at 9 a.m. on June 12 in Cabell County Circuit Court.

Marshall University officials confirmed to WSAZ Monday that Hardin is currently enrolled as a student. He completed the spring 2019 semester and is registered for the fall 2019 term.

According to Marshall University Spokeswoman Leah Payne, Hardin "has been continuously enrolled at Marshall University since 2016."

In the months following Hardin's arrest in 2016, many posted to social media with concerns about Hardin being allowed on campus. The posts criticized the university, saying it puts other students in danger and forces the female student to be around her alleged attacker. You can read the university's response in our original story below.



UPDATE 6/10/19 @ 2:26 p.m.
A Marshall University student is in jail after prosecutors say he violated his probation and once again faces sexual assault charges.

Joseph Hardin, 22, will have a hearing at 9 a.m. on June 12 in Cabell County Circuit Court. Prosecutors are requesting the judge revoke his probation and reinstate a jail sentence.

Hardin was arrested in May of 2016 when he was 19 years old. According to the police report filed at the Marshall University Police Department, a female student accused Hardin of assaulting her in February.

He was originally charged with second-degree sexual assault, but was ultimately convicted on a misdemeanor battery charge.

In that first case, Hardin entered a Kennedy plea on Jan. 11, 2017. That type of plea means the defendant accepts punishment, but does not admit guilt. Judge Alfred Ferguson sentenced Hardin to a year in jail, but suspended that sentence and gave him three years of probation. The judge also ruled Hardin could not have contact with the victim.

According to new court records, Hardin was arrested again Friday, June 7, 2019 on four counts of second-degree sexual assault. One of the conditions of his probation is that he does not commit any other crimes.

Court documents claim Hardin also violated his probation by drinking alcohol. The documents state, "Condition number 10 of the defendant's terms and conditions is: 'You will not have, buy, drink, or be with anybody drinking beer, liquor, or wine. You will not be in or around any bars.'" According to the court records, Hardin admitted to drinking a glass of wine on Jan. 20, 2019 "and tested positive for Ethanol."

Following these probation violations, prosecutors want Hardin's one-year jail sentence reinstated with time served.

Hardin is currently in the Western Regional Jail. The jail website did not list a bail amount.

Marshall University officials confirmed to WSAZ Monday that Hardin is still enrolled as a student. He completed the spring 2019 semester and is registered for the fall 2019 term.

In the months following Hardin's arrest in 2016, the university carried out its own student conduct case separate from the criminal case.

"Our client has already been absolved of these charges at Marshall and we maintain his innocence," Hardin's attorney told WSAZ at the time.

Many posted to social media with concerns about Hardin being allowed on campus. The posts criticized the university, saying it puts other students in danger and forces the female student to be around her alleged attacker.

There was so much backlash that Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert issued a news release on May 7, 2016 that read in part, "With regard to the case that has been widely discussed on social media over the last couple of days, I want to be absolutely clear that Marshall University does not condone or 'cover up' sexual assault. The safety of our students is one of our primary obligations." You can read the full statement from the university in our original story below.

Molly Hellyer is a Marshall senior.

"I think the system let him slide through a little bit," Hellyer said. "I don't know why, but I'm not too happy about it. This is where we are supposed to learn and our second home basically, and how safe can we feel if someone who is known for being sexually abusive is still walking around campus?"



UPDATE 1/11/17 @ 12 p.m.
A Marshall University student has been placed on probation after he submitted a Kennedy plea.

Joseph Hardin,19, was originally charged with sexual assault, but was sentenced for misdemeanor battery of a female student.

Judge Alfred Ferguson sentenced Hardin to a year in jail, but suspended that and put Hardin on three years probation.

Hardin will have to get an HIV test and be fingerprinted and photographed.

The judge also ruled Hardin can't have contact with the victim.

In the months following Hardin's arrest, many began posting social media with concerns about Hardin allegedly being allowed on campus.

The posts criticized the university, saying it puts other students in danger and forces the female student to be around her alleged attacker.

There was so much backlash that Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert issued a news release in May 2016 that reads in part, "With regard to the case that has been widely discussed on social media over the last couple of days, I want to be absolutely clear that Marshall University does not condone or 'cover up' sexual assault. The safety of our students is one of our primary obligations."



ORIGINAL STORY 5/27/16
A student at Marshall University is facing criminal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a female student on campus.

Joseph Hardin, 19, is charged with second-degree sexual assault. He was in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing. Hardin's attorney tells WSAZ the student is maintaining his innocence.

According to the police report filed at the Marshall University Police Department, a female student reported the alleged assault at 4:24 p.m. on Feb. 1.

In the months following Hardin's arrest, many began posting social media with concerns about Hardin allegedly being allowed on campus. The posts criticized the university, saying it puts other students in danger and forces the female student to be around her alleged attacker.

There was so much backlash that Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert issued a news release on May 7 that reads in part, "With regard to the case that has been widely discussed on social media over the last couple of days, I want to be absolutely clear that Marshall University does not condone or 'cover up' sexual assault. The safety of our students is one of our primary obligations."

A student conduct case is separate from Hardin's criminal case.

The president's release goes on to say, "Both parties in a student conduct case have the right to appeal a decision and that process also is clearly defined in the code."

University officials could not comment on whether or not Hardin filed appeals, what the outcome of the case was, or even confirm if the case had been settled.

However, officials confirmed that Hardin is an actively enrolled student, adding that if a student is suspended or filing appeals in a student conduct case, they would still have the status of actively enrolled.

After his hearing Friday, Hardin's attorney gave WSAZ this statement: "Our client has already been absolved of these charges at Marshall and we maintain his innocence."

A trial date for Hardin's criminal case was set for September.

Below is the full statement from the university from the press release sent out May 7:

"In light of recent social media posts regarding a student conduct issue here at Marshall University President Jerome A. Gilbert today issued the following statement:

Due to federal student privacy laws, we are limited about what we can say regarding the circumstances of any specific student conduct case; however, with regard to the case that has been widely discussed on social media over the last couple of days, I want to be absolutely clear that Marshall University does not condone or "cover up" sexual assault. The safety of our students is one of our primary obligations.

The university has a Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the specific process outlined in that code for student disciplinary issues is being followed in this case, as it is in any student conduct case. Both parties in a student conduct case have the right to appeal a decision and that process also is clearly defined in the code.

Campus conduct proceedings are not substitutes for criminal prosecution, and Title IX federal law does not allow us to wait until a criminal case is decided to hold a student conduct hearing.

As for reports the university has failed to treat this and past incidents with adequate transparency or seriousness, I want to affirm my commitment that my administration and this university will treat sexual misconduct and violence with the utmost gravity, while respecting the rights of all parties.

We send timely warning notices to the university community any time an assault is reported and provide every possible resource to any student who brings forward allegations. No student will be discouraged from reporting offenses or from the right to due process.

To make certain we are doing everything we can to ensure that our procedures for handling cases are fair and sensitive, and that our decisions protect the welfare of our entire community, I am ordering a review be conducted this summer of all university practices and procedures intended to keep our campus community safe—including those in the student code of conduct.

Anyone who has specific information that the integrity of a student conduct process has been compromised should contact my office or the Office of Student Affairs directly.

We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive steps to make the entire Marshall family feel secure and welcome.

Resources are available on and off campus to provide assistance to anyone who believes they have been a victim of a sexual offense.

To report a sexual assault, contact the police immediately. Campus police can be contacted at (304) 696-4357. Huntington police can be contacted at 911 or directly at (304) 696-4470.

Victims of any form of sexual assault are encouraged to seek support and can obtain information from the Marshall University Women's Center at (304) 696-3338 or through CONTACT Rape Crisis Center at (304) 399-1111.

For information about sexual assault services available to the university community, visit www.marshall.edu/wcenter."