The former president of Cornell’s Psi Upsilon fraternity who was accused of locking a woman in his fraternity bedroom and forcing her to have oral sex pleaded guilty Tuesday to forcible touching, a misdemeanor, and is unlikely to face jail time.
Wolfgang Ballinger ’17 was arrested in February 2016 and accused of locking a woman in the bedroom of his fraternity house at 2 Forest Park Lane early in the morning of Jan. 31. He allegedly forced her to have oral sex and attempted to have sex with her despite her telling him, “I don’t want to,” according to previously filed court documents.
Ballinger, a former student in the School of Hotel Administration, was indicted on one charge of sexual abuse in the first degree last year after police had initially charged him with attempted rape, criminal sexual act and sexual abuse, all first-degree felonies.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia said in Tompkins County Court on Tuesday that the plea deal was offered after consultation with the victim and includes a three-year order of protection.
“This is an agreement that comes not only with the consultation of the complainant in this case but at the request of the complainant … including plea sentencing,” Bonavia said. “We will not be recommending under any circumstances that the defendant be incarcerated.”
District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said the attorneys in his office have spent a lot of time with the victim and her family and have consulted with them at every step of the legal process.
“The victim believes that this is justice,” Van Houten said of the plea agreement. “That’s my job as the district attorney, is to make sure that the results of a criminal case produces justice.”
“The person that is most important to me to determining that is the victim,” he continued. “She is wholeheartedly in support of this resolution.”
Van Houten declined to comment on whether the initial court documents alleging that Ballinger locked a woman in his fraternity bedroom and attempted to have sex with her were accurate.
Ballinger wore a navy blazer and a dark blue tie in court on Tuesday and ignored a reporter’s questions as he walked down the courtroom stairs.
When Tompkins County Court Judge Joseph Cassidy asked Ballinger in court if he was thinking clearly — a standard question before allowing a plea agreement — Ballinger responded, “as clear as possible.”
Ballinger will be evaluated by a probation officer as part of a pre-sentence investigation, and Bonavia said the former fraternity president will likely be placed on probation or be given a conditional discharge.
The probation period would last for six years, but Bonavia said that if the probation department recommends that Ballinger be taken off of probation, the district attorney’s office would not oppose that recommendation.
John Carberry, director of media relations at Cornell, declined to comment on the case, citing the University’s ongoing internal investigation.
“We respect the decision of the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office to resolve this case,” he said in a statement.
The University revoked its recognition of Psi Upsilon in May for three years, which was reduced to one and a half years after an appeal. The revocation was due to a party the fraternity hosted on Slope Day and 31 alleged judicial complaints filed against the University, according to a statement issued by Cornell in May.
There was “no information presented to the Board that demonstrates the chapter contributed to an atmosphere or circumstance that would facilitate sexual misconduct that night or otherwise responded inappropriately at the time the allegation was made,” Cornell said in its statement, referring to Ballinger’s alleged sexual assault.
Ballinger sued the university in May and alleged that Cornell’s sexual assault investigation process violates state law, The Sun previously reported.
In September, Tompkins County Supreme Court Judge Eugene Faughnan denied Ballinger’s petition, but said the former Cornell student could renew it when the University completed its sexual assault investigation and made a final decision.
A Cornell spokesperson did not immediately comment on how or if Ballinger could be reinstated as a student.
Ballinger is scheduled to be sentenced for his guilty plea to forcible touching on March 27.