Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Feb. 11, 2014. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Days after Brett Kavanaugh denied the sexual misconduct allegations that have imperiled his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, a Yale classmate of his came forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee to suggest one of the accusers was “mistaken” in alleging Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a night of drinking their first year on campus.

The former classmate, Joseph Smith Jr., now a partner in the Denver office of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, told the judiciary committee he thinks “it’s likely that [Deborah] Ramirez is mistaken about Kavanaugh exposing himself at a party.”

Smith, who was a year behind Kavanaugh and Ramirez at Yale, identified another undergraduate student who was allegedly known to engage in such behavior. The NLJ was unable to reach the classmate for comment about what Smith told judiciary committee investigators.

“There was one male undergraduate who had a reputation for doing that while I was at Yale, and it was not Kavanaugh,” Smith, a 1988 Yale graduate, told the judiciary committee. Smith said he had witnessed the student expose himself at a party.

Like Smith, the student was in the class of 1988, making it unclear whether he was on Yale’s campus at the time Ramirez claims Kavanaugh exposed himself to her.

Smith, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment on the information he submitted and whether he had spoken with Ramirez and their fellow classmate before contacting the Senate committee. It was not immediately known whether the committee conducted any further investigation on Smith’s observations. A committee spokesperson did not immediately comment on Smith’s submission or whether the panel has responded to it.

Jason Peltz, the Chicago-based managing partner of Bartlit Beck, said the firm’s leadership was not aware of Smith’s submission to the Senate committee. The submission, Peltz added, reflects Smith’s views and not those of the firm.

Ramirez’s attorney, Hutchinson Black and Cook partner John Clune, did not respond to phone and email requests for comment Monday. Ramirez was reportedly questioned Sunday as part of a renewed background check of Kavanaugh in which the FBI is investigating sexual assault claims that emerged publicly after his confirmation hearing ended last month.

Kavanaugh has denied sexually assaulting Ramirez, whose account of the alleged incident was first published by The New Yorker on Sept. 23. “She remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away,” according to the report. Ramirez told The New Yorker: “Brett was laughing. I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.”

Ramirez alleged the incident occurred at a drunken dormitory party when she and Kavanaugh were both freshmen. Kavanaugh, in a statement to the magazine, said the “claim did not happen” and he called the allegation “a smear, plain and simple.”

Kavanaugh, testifying last week on Capitol Hill at his re-opened confirmation proceedings, denied claims he ever consumed so much alcohol that he blacked out or could not remember events from the prior night.

Several other former Yale classmates in recent days have publicly accused Kavanaugh of downplaying his past drinking habits. One of those classmates, Chad Ludington, said in a public statement that he became “deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.”



Ludington, a professor in North Carolina, described Kavanaugh as a frequent and heavy drinker who “was often belligerent and aggressive” when drunk. Another classmate, Liz Swisher, said on CNN that while she never saw Kavanaugh “be sexually aggressive,” she did know him to drink heavily. “He was always one of the beer drinking boys, and I drank beer with him. I liked beer, there’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it,” Swisher said.

The White House on Monday distributed statements from other Yale classmates who disputed accounts of Kavanaugh as a heavy drinker in college.

“I will say it again, we drank in college. I was with Brett frequently in college, whether it be in the gym, in class or socializing. I never ever saw Brett blackout. Not one time,” one of the former classmates, Chris Dudley, said in a statement. “And in all the years I have known him, I have never seen him to be disrespectful or inappropriate with women.”

Kavanaugh was poised for confirmation to the Supreme Court several weeks ago when allegations emerged claiming that he sexually assaulted a high school student in the 1980s at a social gathering in suburban Washington.

Kavanaugh was 17 at the time the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, alleged she was sexually assaulted. Ford, a research psychologist in California, testified last week she is “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and tried to remove her clothes. Kavanaugh denied the allegation, calling it part of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” to derail his confirmation.

Kavanaugh was asked about Ramirez’s claim on a recent Fox News interview. “I know I never did that. If I had done that, it would have been the talk of campus,” he said.

Smith made a similar point in the information he provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Yale College is a small school,” he said, adding that it would have been “widely known” on campus if another student had exposed himself.

 

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