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Northwestern freshman charged in sexual assault of fellow student on campus

A Northwestern student was sexually assaulted early Saturday on the school's campus in Evanston. | Sun-Times file photo

A Northwestern freshman was released on bail after he was charged with publicly sexually assaulting a fellow student earlier this month on the school’s campus in north suburban Evanston.

Scott Thomas, 20, of Bernardsville, N.J., was charged with a felony count of criminal sexual assault in connection with the March 16 attack outside Northwestern’s Jacobs Center at 2001 Sheridan Road, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Just after 2 a.m., students leaving the library saw Thomas allegedly holding the 18-year-old woman against a glass door and forcibly having sex with her, according to prosecutors. The young woman “appeared lifeless” and was allegedly being held up by Thomas, prosecutors said.

A student who called out to Thomas and the woman eventually walked up to them, at which point Thomas allegedly pulled his pants up, zipped them and tucked his shirt in, prosecutors said. At that point, the concerned student noticed the young woman’s eyes were closed and she couldn’t stand on her own.

The witness helped her get dressed and flagged down a Northwestern cop, prosecutors said.

School officials said Thomas was “immediately identified” as the suspect, but prosecutors noted that he wasn’t arrested until he was charged on Tuesday.

After the attack, prosecutors said the victim was “obviously intoxicated” and was unable to provide information to investigators. She was taken to a hospital and treated for bruising, scratches and an injured wrist she appears to have suffered when she fell during the assault.

The woman, who didn’t recall the attack, had recently met Thomas at a party, prosecutors said. She and Thomas left the party just after 1 a.m. and were seen strolling through campus on surveillance video, prosecutors said.

While the footage shows them kissing, the woman also appears to fend off further sexual advances, and she is seen pushing Thomas’ hand away from her crotch multiple times, according to prosecutors. The woman appears increasingly intoxicated in the footage, swaying and falling over before Thomas is seen carrying her and helping her walk, prosecutors said.

The public assault was also caught on surveillance footage, prosecutors said.

After his initial court hearing, Thomas was released after posting $5,000 bond, prosecutors said. While he is free on bond, Thomas is prohibited from leaving Cook County and can’t have any contact with the victim or witnesses.

Thomas’ attorney, Northwestern law professor Jeffrey Urdangen, declined to comment. Northwestern officials also declined to comment beyond a statement that acknowledged the attack and detailed the related charges. However, Thomas was not named in the statement and the suspect was not identified as a current Northwestern student.

“We realize the report of a sexual assault on our campus is difficult for many people in our community,” the statement said. “We encourage any students, faculty or staff who need support to reach out to the Office of Equity.”

Prosecutors said Thomas was no longer allowed on Northwestern’s campus. School officials wouldn’t comment on his status as a student there.

Thomas, who has no criminal history, is expected to appear in court April 3.