When is a female college student too intoxicated to consent to go to a male student's dorm room? If other students intervene on her behalf, what are they legally allowed to do?
Those questions are at the heart of the case against two Wharton School students who were held for trial Thursday for their alleged actions in a brawl on the University of Pennsylvania campus that left a third man with a concussion, bloody bruises, and a fractured nose and wrist.
Attorneys for Dante Benitez and Ivan Loginov, both 19, argued during a preliminary hearing that their clients had no intention to hurt Max Arias, 19, early on April 8. Their only reason for going to his dorm room was to rescue a 19-year-old freshman who they believed had gotten drunk at a campus party and should not have been alone with Arias, the attorneys said.
"A number of people, including Mr. Benitez, who are friends with the 19-year-old woman, believed that she was clearly too intoxicated to consent to have sex with someone. They went there to try and stop that from happening. They didn't go there to commit a crime," attorney Ronald Greenblatt, who represents Benitez, said after leaving the courtroom.
"Obviously, these two good young men were concerned that this particular young lady was vulnerable, was too intoxicated to be in a consensual sexual encounter, and they went there to right a wrong. It's tragic how things unfolded. But their intentions were pure, their intentions were good," attorney Brian McMonagle, who represents Loginov, said after the hearing.
Both defendants have been suspended from Wharton until a university investigation is completed, Greenblatt said.
Assistant District Attorney Lori Edelman argued that Benitez and Loginov were not Good Samaritans but violent aggressors. "These defendants knew exactly what they were doing," she said.
After the defendants beat Arias in his room, the fight moved to the hallway, and they threw him down a flight of stairs, Edelman said.
Municipal Judge Karen Y. Simmons dismissed the most serious felony charges - aggravated assault, burglary, and criminal trespassing - but ordered the two men held for trial on three misdemeanors: conspiracy to commit simple assault, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. She set a trial date for Sept. 18.
Arias said the fight began when Loginov punched him in the face. "I was in complete fight-or-flight mode," he testified.
Arias is a grandson of Lynn M. Yeakel, a former Pennsylvania politician who directs the Drexel University College of Medicine's Institute for Women's Health and Leadership. Yeakel, a Democrat, almost unseated U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in 1992. Two years later, she ran for governor, finishing fourth in a seven-person primary field. In 2000, Yeakel lost a challenge to incumbent GOP State Sen. Dick Tilghman for his 17th District seat.