NCCU dean found guilty of assaulting woman

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

A judge found N.C. Central University Dean Ontario Wooden guilty of assault on a female after a short trial Wednesday morning in Durham County District Court.
Both Wooden and the woman, Tarryn Simmons, a speech coordinator at NCCU, testified during the trial and gave a similar outline of what happened, but they differed on the details.
Under questioning by Kathryn Jagoda, an intern working with Assistant District Attorney Jonathan James, Simmons told District Court Judge James Hill that Sept. 24, 2012, she stopped by Wooden’s office on the NCCU campus about 4:30 p.m.
“This is something I do periodically, just stopping by to see people on campus,” she said.
The door to his office was open and she walked in and said she needed to speak to him, Simmons said.
“I asked Dr. Wooden why he didn’t speak to me the day before,” Simmons said.
She explained that she had been in the provost’s office and had seen him and spoken to him but he didn’t answer.
“He said, ‘Well I saw you, but I was busy,’” Simmons said. “I said, ‘Why are you always so rude to me?’”
“He said, “Because I can be,’” Simmons said.
Simmons said she stood up to walk out of his office when Wooden told her he was going to delete her phone number from his phone. He then set his cell phone down on his desk, she said.
Simmons said she picked up his phone and said she would delete her own number from his phone.
“He came charging toward me and shoved me up against the cabinet in his office,” she said.
Wooden grabbed both of her forearms, she said. She was holding his phone in one hand and her phone and her keys in her other hand, she said.
She dropped her own phone but held on to his, she said. He then grabbed her left arm and kept trying to get the phone from her hand, she said.
Later, when Wooden testified, he said Simmons had called him earlier in the day and tried to make an appointment to see him. He told her he was meeting with a student and then leaving his office because of out-of-town guests.
He opened his office door to let the student out and saw Simmons standing there. She walked into his office, he said.
Simmons asked him why he hadn’t spoken to her at the provost’s office, and he explained he was with a campus visitor from New York.
Simmons then told him “what she wanted from me, and I said, “That’s not going to happen,’” Wooden said.
When Wooden’s attorney, Jonathan Trapp, asked him what he meant, Wooden said Simmons said she wanted to have sex with him.
Simmons then made a complaint about how men treat women, using the “N” word to describe men, according to Wooden.
Wooden testified he told her he was going to delete her name from his phone and set the phone on his desk. She grabbed the phone from his desk, he said.
“I walked around my desk to get my phone and let her out,” he said.
When he reached for his phone she dropped her phone and it fell apart on the floor, he said.
Wooden denied grabbing her arms and denied he pushed her into a cabinet, saying there were no cabinets or bookshelves near where she was standing.
“I would have had to pull or drag her across my office to get to the bookshelf,” he said.
After he retrieved his phone, she told him that he had just messed up and walked out, he said.
Throughout his testimony, Wooden quoted Simmons, using vulgarities and obscenities that he claimed she used during the encounter.
Trapp, cross-examining Simmons, pointed out that in her written statement she said her right arm was bruised but now she was testifying it was her left arm that was injured. She responded she was tired and under duress when she wrote the statement and had made a mistake.
Trapp also asked her about her social history with Wooden, and she said that a couple weeks prior to the incident, she went to dinner with Wooden and a friend of his from Atlanta.
After the dinner, she asked Wooden to drive her home in her car because it was leaking power steering fluid. Wooden’s friend drove the other car, she said.
At her home, Wooden came inside and looked around at her new apartment and then left, she said.
Trapp asked her if she and Wooden had engaged in a sexual activity while he was at her apartment, and she denied it, saying that had nothing to do with whether she had been assaulted.
When Wooden took the stand, Trapp did not ask Wooden if he had engaged in sexual activity with Simmons that night.
After the incident in Wooden’s office, Simmons testified that she called an off-duty NCCU patrol officer she knew and said she needed to speak to him. She met with the officer about 6 p.m. when he came on duty. She did not call 911 because she wasn’t sure of the ramifications of what happened, she said.
The officer, Joseph Wadlington, testified he saw finger-sized bruises on Simmons left forearm and a couple of scratches. A day or so later, when he met with her again, he saw a bruise on her shoulder. He took photographs of the bruises, but did not bring the photos to court, he said.
The judge found Wooden guilty, and sentenced him to 60 days in jail, but he suspended the sentence for 24 months and fined Wooden $25 and ordered him to pay court costs. He also ordered Wooden to have no contact with Simmons.
Wooden will definitely appeal his case to superior court, Trapp said after the verdict.
Wooden and Simmons left the courthouse separately, and both said they had no comment.
Ayana Hernandez, a spokeswoman for NCCU, said that Wooden will remain in his post as dean of University College, a position that pays $105,000 per year. The university will not mete out any additional punishment.
" NCCU conducted an internal investigation and took the appropriate actions with Dean Wooden to ensure the situation such does not occur again," Hernandez said..