Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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UNLV student cleared in obstruction claim

A UNLV student accused of obstructing justice and being a party to the possession of a controlled substance has been cleared of charges in the Feb. 3 incident.

Rebecca Mills, vice president for student life at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, informed freshman Rikki Bray, 18, of a hearing panel's decision in a letter Wednesday and said she could move back into her residence hall or receive a full refund.

Bray, who is living with a distant cousin in Henderson, has said she will choose the $3,000 refund.

Jason Bach, Bray's attorney, said he and his client are glad the panel ruled in Bray's favor, but they hope university administrators will "look at the system that is in place over there and make sure this never happens again."

Bray and UNLV police did not return calls for comment.

Bray and another resident, freshman Todd Herlin, 19, were evicted from their dorm for being in the room of another student when he was arrested for possession of marijuana. UNLV housing has a zero-tolerance policy that allows the university to temporarily evict anyone involved at any level in a controlled substance issue until the matter can be resolved, Phil Burns, student judicial affairs officer, said.

Bach and Gary Peck, executive director for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, argued Monday that both the charges against Bray and the eviction violated her constitutional rights.

When campus police came to the dorm room suspecting marijuana use, resident Eric Chan, another freshman, refused to open the door and cited his Fourth Amendment right to refuse "unreasonable searches and seizures." He then ordered Bray and Herlin, who were already inside, to remain in the room and not open any doors, Bray told the hearing panel.

Bray said she agreed because it was Chan's room and she didn't think Chan had done anything wrong.

Campus police testified Monday at the hearing that although it was her right not to open the door, she should have opened it anyway.

In the letter to Bray, Mills said she is "genuinely sorry" for the difficult process Bray went through in resolving the issue.

The university is currently looking into concerns raised by Bray and the ACLU, spokesman Tom Flagg said.

"We have dozens of hearings a month, and we know the policies and procedures work," said Flagg, who said he was speaking for Mills. "But when they don't, we investigate that."

Peck said the "the university should be commended for righting an obvious wrong," but that it was unfortunate the situation was "as mishandled as it was."