The Psi Upsilon fraternity house, located at 2 Forest Park Lane on West Campus, was the site of an alleged sexual assault last Sunday.

Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Staff Photographer

The Psi Upsilon fraternity house, located at 2 Forest Park Lane on West Campus, was the site of an alleged sexual assault last Sunday.

February 6, 2016

Psi Upsilon President Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault Charges

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Wolfgang Ballinger ’17, president of Cornell’s Psi Upsilon fraternity, is pleading not guilty to charges of attempted sexual assault, according to James Baker, Ballinger’s attorney.

“His innocence will be established at the proper time and in the proper place — which is in the courts, not in the media,” Baker said in a statement.

Police have charged Ballinger with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse in connection with an incident which occurred at the fraternity last Sunday morning.

In a crime alert, the Cornell University Police Department said a female student reported that she was led to a bedroom in the Psi Upsilon fraternity house and sexually assaulted at approximately 2 a.m. last Sunday.

Investigators identified Ballinger Friday night, with the victim’s assistance, and he turned himself in to CUPD Friday, according to a police statement.

Ballinger allegedly attempted to have sexual intercourse with the student, forced her to have oral sex and sexually violated her with his hands. The student repeatedly refused by saying “I don’t want to” and “I’m too intoxicated,” according to court documents.

Pg-1-wolfgang-ballinger-mug

Ballinger ’17

Ballinger is charged with one Class D and two Class B felonies. He was remanded to the Tompkins County Jail and will receive a preliminary hearing Feb. 9 at the Ithaca City Court, according to The Ithaca Journal.

The University placed Psi Upsilon on interim suspension Monday, following the sexual assault allegations.

Psi Upsilon Executive Director Thomas Fox said in a statement that the fraternity’s values do not support sexual assault.

“Sexual assault, and any form of sexual harassment, is against our policy and in opposition of the values of Psi Upsilon,” Fox said. “Our chapter is cooperating with Cornell’s investigation into this matter and any members involved will be held accountable.”

President Elizabeth Garrett also released a statement saying she was “deeply disturbed” by Ballinger’s alleged actions.

“Sexual violence has no place at Cornell, and if these allegations are substantiated, those involved will be held accountable,” Garrett said. “Although I applaud the swift actions of the Interfraternity Council to mandate additional training for its members, we will be considering what additional steps should be taken to ensure the Greek community at Cornell is living up to our institutional standard of excellence and respect for others.”

36 thoughts on “Psi Upsilon President Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault Charges

  1. Finally, some strong woman had the bravery to hold someone criminally accountable for what research shows is a systemic, epidemic problem on almost all campuses. Enough is enough. My heart goes out to the victim as she begins her recovery from what appears to be a traumatic and unfortunate life changing event.

    Cornell did the right thing suspending Psi U when they learned there was enough credible evidence leading to an arrest of 3 alleged felony offenses. Most men I know respect women and could not conceive of violently exerting their power and control over them in such a disgusting way. The others should be held accountable for these crimes and should not be allowed on campus. Let’s hope this helps real change to come about.

    • There was clearly substantial evidence to implicate one person in this case. The whole frat isn’t responsible for the alleged actions of one of its members. He’s still innocent until proven guilty and we ought to remember that. It’s not justice if the wrong person gets punished.

      As for your claim of rape being an “epidemic problem”, I don’t agree that a victimization rate of 6.1 per thousand women and 1.4 per thousand men (citation: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf) is an epidemic level, but it is nonetheless not yet zero.

      • The rates you cite are annual for all people at all ages. So for lifetime rates you are going to want to multiply those rates by 83 and 79. That becomes a rate of more than 5% incidence of rape per lifetime. And, of course, those BJS are low, due to underreporting by victims. This would be horrible trade, but If 5% of us were deeply slashed across the face at some point in our lives instead of raped, then I’ll bet you’d call that an epidemic of violence even though rape may be just as traumatic as a knifing, or more so.

        We need to eliminate both such crimes. Minimizing their importance and insinuating that either atrocity, whatever the rates are, might lead some to think that they are not worthy of the dramatic and effective changes need to eliminate them. I hope that is not the case.

    • Ejones is right that this young woman is to be commended and supported for her strength in reporting what happened to her. Every Cornellian should want her to get justice and to heal.

      Where is ejones is wrong is in conflating one incident, for which no facts are available, into an example of a serious criminal act and evidence of an epidemic.

      Slow down and let the facts lead where they may.

      Finally, Psi U’s suspension should be lifted assuming no culpability of others living there.

      • I’m sure the suspension of the fraternity has a lot to do with their repeated suspensions. Just a year ago, the fraternity was suspended for other infractions and that wasn’t the first time the fraternity had been in trouble. I don’t blame the college for suspending the fraternity. These kids need to know there are severe consequences for such actions.

  2. So far these are just allegations. We do not know the whole story. I feel just as bad for the guy whose name is flashed across national tv for purely allegations. We are too prejudiced to immediately concur with females and blame men. So far we only know what she said. She was in his bedroom at 2am in a frat.

    • It is not her fault that he broke the law. That she was in his bedroom is irrelevant! If she had run naked down the middle of the street – that doesn’t give anyone a right to assault her. Restraint and respect for the law are te issues here, and she told him to stop and he didn’t. Quit blaming the female! And if he is so concerned about his name, he should have thought about that before he brought her to his bedroom.

      • `No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.’

        You have clearly laid out the unanswerable case with that irrefutable evidence you laid out there so compellingly there kiddo.

        What’s the point of an investigation, let alone a trial. Waste of time and money.

        Let’s just have us a good old fashioned lynchin’ there, boy.

  3. Candie

    Last year, Cornell suspended Psi Upsilon but the University lifted the suspension five days later after the accusations of were found to be false.

    James Mallios

  4. Legally, individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
    The information presented in this news article is woefully insufficient to prove guilt.

    I’ve sat on the jury of a felony rape case (incest), and we had trouble convicting despite a signed confession. It was 2 women on the jury who argued that the 15 year old girl seduced her father.
    With that experience, it’s clear to me that some previous commenters don’t understand our legal system. If it comes down to a he said she said, then there probably won’t be a conviction.

    Here’s another way to view the story being presented:

    A young single female student visits a fraternity house and flirts with several boys.
    The night goes on and she decides to stay for a while.
    She is free to leave, but is apparently having a good time.
    Eventually, she is lead to a boys bedroom.
    It’s a private room and she freely enters with the occupant.

    I won’t draw any conclusions here, but leave other to consider the situation.

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  15. As a father with both daughters and sons this entire situation sickens and saddens me on a gut level. On the one hand, if one of my sons were to force or even attempt to force any woman into non-consensual sex I would say they deserve some righteous thunder. If as parents we failed to teach them such lessons then society is welcome to join in with their education. There would be no affluenza defense from me. As for my daughters, my mind would go to just one simple question. “What were you thinking? …going into a guys bedroom in a Frat house at 2AM? Really??”

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  21. His attorney’s name was listed as “James A. Baker” in the Washington Post, but only “James Baker” here. Does this attorney happen to be James A. Baker, III or IV of Baker Botts LLP, or is it some other James A. Baker???

    James A. Baker, III served as Secretary of the Treasury, White House Chief of Staff, and Secretary of State in various Republican administrations. To have this kind of person, whether him or his son, as a criminal defense attorney would indicate a background of extreme privilege — not 1%, but 0.001%. One would imagine that a person from that kind of background might not be used to hearing “no.”

    • Yeah right. How dare this OBVIOUSLY GUILTY person even have ANY right to chose an attorney to represent him.

      Heaven’s to Betsy. Whatever next. He better not protest his innocence.

      est his innocence.

  22. I really don’t like the racist and classist overtones of the reporting that is going on around this case. (Not as much by the reporter of this article). The fraternity is reported as “Their pledge classes are usually fairly small, with a very low number of athletes,” it adds. “Overall the brothers are, for the most part, snobby elitists and not very down to earth at all.” in the Daily Beast. Regardless of the fact that he is innocent until proven guilty, why is it ok to bash someone because he has rich white parents? How does this sound?: “the alleged rapist was described as a thug from the projects”. Now you’re uncomfortable, right? So let’s have some fairness in reporting. Why do reporters (this article’s reporter excluded) take pleasure in rubbing the noses of successful people in the dirt?

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  24. I agree that this sort of case has no business being tried in public. I think @D.J. Smith missed the mark with the comment about faculty not being subject to arbitrary and mass collective punishment and that shutting down the fraternity operations is somehow a Stalinist response to the situation. When someone in a fraternity commits, or is even alleged to have commit such an egregious act as a sexual assault, the University and the fraternity’s National Office have every right and responsibility to examine the situation and cease fraternity operations, at least temporarily.

    I have spent a significant amount of time interacting as an alumnus to a fraternity similar to the one reported in this article, and heard similar push-back from undergrads when the fraternity has been collectively punished for inappropriate activities.

    Irrespective of the guilt or innocence of the young man at Cornell, here are some realities; a fraternity is not the same as a group of faculty members. Fraternity members collectively join a fraternity and commit themselves on several levels to high standards of behaviors and common goals, values and principals. In fact they are responsible to each other under the commitments they make to the fraternity. Contrary to these commitments, through several years of direct involvement with fraternity undergrads in recent years I saw an almost incomprehensible lack of accountability on their part for their actions, and near absolute lack of understanding or acceptance of consequences for unacceptable/illegal behavior. At the same time they failed to keep their commitments to their fraternity.

    I am referring to a leading fraternity at a leading University in the Big 10. Most, if not all of the young men who joined the fraternity are fine young men. I haven’t met one (to my knowledge) who would force themselves on a female – when they are sober. At the same time, many have come from privileged backgrounds and have not experienced real world boundaries when they arrive at the University. These individuals in particular do not expect to hear the word “no” in their university experience. The take pride in their ability to “work hard and play hard”, referring to studying hard and then “raging” until they are “turnt” during their free time.

    Here is the real crux of the matter; many if not most of these young men are still very young and immature. When they get as intoxicated as they do, their manners and their common sense “check out”. On at least one Big 10 campus and within at least one fraternity, there is a culture of extreme partying that encourages the members to treat passing out from alcohol overdose and being transported to the hospital as a badge of courage. Adderall, cocaine and other stimulants are intentionally ingested/abused to maintain increased heart rate and awareness and fight off drowsiness while alcohol (primarily vodka due to its low cost and high alcohol content) is being chugged directly from “handles” so the fraternity members (and commonly, females guests) can experience a heightened level of drunkenness that most adults don’t know how to relate to. And when they get to this state, anything can, and has, happened.

    Do not misunderstand me. I am not a teetotaler and am not advocating that alcohol be banned from Universities. My friends and I had our share of alcohol and right or wrong, I see it as somewhat of a rite of passage to enjoy some beer with friends and learn limits of alcohol tolerance. At the same time, there is never, ever an excuse for a man to force himself on a woman.

    Having spent time the undergrads, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that extreme alcohol consumption and drug abuse going on at this Big 10 campus, at this fraternity (and let’s be honest, on other campuses and other fraternities as well) is at the root of at least some, if not the majority of the sexual assaults that are being reported. I applaud the young women who have the fortitude and strength to stand up and report a sexual assault that they have experienced. The individual(s) responsible for it need to suffer the consequences for their actions. And these consequences will hopefully send a message to others that this behavior is unacceptable, abhorrent, and reprehensible no matter what condition a person is in when a sexual assault occurs.

    Every young adult, male or female must understand that “no” means “no”. I know that at least one Big 10 University is now going a step further to educate the students that the ONLY way that sexual activity is acceptable between two people is for both partners to give an explicit “yes” to each other. I pray that someday this will become the norm. Also, that fraternity brothers would hold each other accountable for following this simple rule – rather than encouraging each other while in a drunken frenzy to be complicit in, or turn a blind eye to unacceptable behaviors.

    I would also advise parents to please educate your sons and daughters about this issue before sending them off to college. No matter what a student’s background or education level or socioeconomic circumstance, anyone can fall prey to extreme alcohol and drug use. And when that occurs, a person’s judgement and ability to function as they would when sober are extremely compromised. I can tell you from first hand exposure there are no boundaries to this, having seen the most upstanding, intelligent, accomplished, respectful young men and women turn into unrecognizable human beings after taking in extreme amounts of alcohol and drugs.

    When I first got involved with my fraternity as an alumnus I was amazed in a positive way at how big a taboo it was for the students to drink and drive. This change from my days, when drinking and driving among undergrads was common (I am ashamed to say) is no doubt from parental education, backlash in media to alcohol related automobile accidents and deaths, and positive peer pressure. I have no doubt that sexual assault has always been more common than reported, and that the recent attention by media and Hollywood have helped raise awareness (and reporting) of the issue. I pray that undergrads in particular will learn new lessons to reduce (with the goal of eliminating) sexual assaults on campuses everywhere. I am certain that taking steps to make the culture of extreme partying/alcohol consumption unacceptable on campuses (rather than acceptable, or even the norm), and providing intense education that the only way sex is acceptable is between partners who explicitly say “yes” to each other, will significantly reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse on campuses.

  25. She went to the police. That is how this should be dealt with – not administratively. Let the police and courts decide guilt or innocence.

  26. Any of you so called journalists following up on this story? Did his influential family buy off the victim and get the charges dropped? How about his status at the University? Do a follow up story if you are allowed to by the administration.

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