A University of Montana student accused of sexually assaulting and punching another student after learning she was transgender must stay away from her on campus and around town.
Missoula Municipal Court Judge Marie Andersen told Obioha Onwubiko that a yearlong restraining order she issued Thursday puts the onus on him to avoid Anita Green.
“If you meet on campus, she doesn’t have to turn away. You do,” she said.
The two students agreed that they met at an April 28 dance at the Elks Club, where Green’s friends urged Onwubiko to dance with her. After that, their accounts quickly diverged.
Green, who gave the Missoulian permission to use her name, testified at Thursday’s hearing on the restraining order that they left the club after dancing awhile. Once outside, within view of several people standing around outside the Elks, Onwubiko began kissing her aggressively, biting her lips, tearing at her shirt and trying to put his hand down her pants. She said she shoved his hand away and started to back away from him.
“Then he grabbed my crotch. At this point, he found out I was transgender. I was completely terrified,” she said. But she said that when she tried to go back into the club, he pursued her and punched her in the eye, knocking her to the sidewalk, where she briefly lost consciousness.
Onwubiko said Green came onto him on the dance floor, kissing him repeatedly and “grinding.”
Once outside, he said, “she jumped on me. She tried to reach down my pants.” Something about her voice, he said, made him think “this is a guy.” So he touched her crotch to make sure, he said.
“I was scared, shocked, deceived. ... This is a guy doing this to me ... I can’t use the words to express how I feel,” said Onwubiko, adding repeatedly, “I’m not gay.”
Onwubiko said that when he returned to campus the following Monday, he questioned a couple of people whom he thought might have been Green. He also went to the legal services office of the Associated Students of the University of Montana “to pursue legal action against the guy that molested me at the Elks Club.”
But they told him they couldn’t handle cases involving two students accusing each other, he said.
Green, meanwhile, testified that she reported the incident both to police and to then-Dean of Students Charles Couture, and UM instituted a no-contact order.
She sought the restraining order from Municipal Court earlier this month after finding out that Onwubiko was back on campus, even though friends had told her he’d been deported to Nigeria.
Onwubiko’s attorney, Craig Shannon, decried the restraining order as unnecessary, given the no-contact order.
Under his cross-examination, Green said the two had been grinding on the dance floor, kissed briefly and that she hooked her fingers into his belt, but denied trying to reach down his pants.
Green’s attorney, Pat Sandefur, decried that line of questioning, saying, “This goes all the way back to (the stereotypical rape defense of) ‘Her miniskirt is too short, so she invited it.’ ... This is outrageous.”
He asked Green: “By dancing with Obi, by grinding with Obi, by kissing him, by grabbing his belt, what in your mind comprised an invitation to rip your shirt ... or to grab your crotch ... or to punch you in the eye?”
“There was never an invitation,” Green said in each of the pauses.
When Sandefur cross-examined Onwubiko, he asked again and again why, given how uncomfortable Onwubiko was with the kissing and grinding, he hadn’t simply left. Onwubiko said he was being polite. And when Sandefur asked whether he’d gotten permission to touch Green’s crotch, Onwubiko said, “I’m being victimized ... I have to find out for myself ... I’m assessing the level of damage.”
In his summary, Sandefur called Shannon’s line of questioning adding “insult to injury. He comes here and wants to blame this on her like it’s her fault because she is who she is. It’s like she invited it. That’s offensive.”
But Shannon said there was no evidence that Green was in such fear of Onwubiko as to justify a restraining order. After all, he pointed out, both had spent the summer in Missoula with no problem.
UM Dean of Students Rhondie Voorhees confirmed in court Thursday that the university’s no-contact order remains in effect for Onwubiko and Green.
The order Andersen imposed Thursday mandates that the two keep 1,500 feet apart, except on campus, where that would be impractical. There, the two must avoid each other or – if they do see each other – try not to make eye contact, she said.
“No contact,” she said for final emphasis. “No waving, no looking, no contact.”
Onwubiko is charged with sexual assault and assault, both misdemeanors. His trial is set for Oct. 26.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, firstname.lastname@example.org or @CopsAndCourts.