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Sunday, June 7, 2020

Western alumnus to appear in court for assault charges

Content warning: This article contains references to assault and retellings of events from survivor’s written statements.

Western journalism alumnus Evan Joseph Elliott, 22, is scheduled to appear in Whatcom County District Court Sept. 7 to answer to charges of two counts of fourth-degree assault against two 21-year-old students who told University Police he assaulted and groped them during an off-campus celebration five days before he graduated, according to court and Police records.

According to the women’s written statements to University Police, Elliott repeatedly followed them and grabbed them at two downtown bars, at a restaurant and later during a gathering in another student’s apartment. Both women’s statements to police described how they tried to avoid Elliott and said he continued to pursue and assault them that night.

The prosecuting attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.

Elliott graduated from Western on June 10 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He worked on The Western Front as a reporter, news editor and managing editor, from fall 2015 to fall 2016. He was also a member of the university’s club baseball team.

Elliott could not be reached for comment. Elliott’s attorney declined to comment.

In separate accounts, the survivors told police that Elliott assaulted each of them several times and at several locations throughout the night while they were part of a larger group gathered to celebrate the spring graduation of a group of journalism majors, according to police documents.

The women reported moving away from Elliott, telling him to stop, and seeking help from friends, police documents state. Police reports state the women were both assaulted on the same night in some of the same locations, but were unaware of one another’s experiences until after they left the gathering in the student’s apartment.

One survivor told police Elliott first assaulted her during a gathering of students at the State Street Bar where she said Elliott changed seats to move next to her, then continued to move his hand up her thigh under the table. She said she “froze,” then got up and moved, according to the police report.

As the group moved to Pel’Meni restaurant, the survivor said Elliott again sat next to her and assaulted her. He ran his hands up and down her thighs and over her vagina, she told police. She sought help from a friend who then walked out of the restaurant with her, but Elliott followed her outside, sat next to her on a bench, and put his arm around her, according to her statement.

After the group decided to go a friend’s downtown apartment, the survivor told police Elliott walked behind while she was standing outside and put both of his hands on her buttocks. The friend who had been trying to keep Elliott away from the woman motioned for her to come over and suggested they leave, which then she did, she told police. She wrote in her statement Elliott was following her around everywhere she went while the group was downtown.

The second survivor told police Elliott had touched her buttocks and put his hand under her buttocks as she was seated next to him at the State Street Bar earlier that same night. The survivor told police she was trying to keep her distance from Elliott as the group moved to different locations, but that he continued to follow her and touched her buttocks.

The second woman also attended the gathering in a student’s apartment and while there, she said Elliott sat next to her on a couch and touched her vagina, according to the police report. She stood up and told him, “You need to stop that, that was the fourth time,” then left the party in tears, according to the police report.

On June 9, the day before spring graduation, both women contacted a university staff member who reported what they said to an administration official who then contacted University Police, according to police documents.

According to police records, university staff was instructed to take steps to keep Elliott away from one of the survivors, who was also graduating in the same June 10 ceremony.

Elliott’s plea hearing is set for Sept. 7. His jury trial date has been scheduled for Oct. 10. Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated Elliott was on The Front from winter 2016 through fall 2016. He was on The Front from fall 2015 through fall 2016.

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