Filing documents bring some details to light, including the complainant's admission that he was snorting a white powder at the July party, though he claimed the powder was crushed caffeine pills, not drugs

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Washington State football player Robert Barber has filed a petition for review asking the Whitman County Superior Court to overturn the suspension handed down by Washington State University’s Student Conduct Board.

Barber’s attorney, Stephen Graham, said the petition was filed Wednesday afternoon, and it includes a request for a stay of Barber’s suspension, which – if granted – would allow Barber to return to the classroom while he awaits the judge’s decision on his petition.

Barber, a fifth-year senior defensive tackle, is one class away from graduating with a degree in criminal justice, but has been suspended from school since last Friday.

Barber’s suspension was the result of a WSU Conduct Board sanction as punishment for allegedly assaulting and concussing another WSU student at an off campus party in July.

If the stay is granted by a judge, Barber could be back in the classroom by Nov. 14, Graham said, adding that his goal is to get Barber back on track toward completing his degree.

It’s up to WSU football coach Mike Leach to determine whether Barber will be allowed to play football if the stay is granted, Graham said.

Leach said earlier this week that if Barber’s request for a stay is granted, he would be welcome to rejoin the team.

“No question, I’d play him,” Leach said. “I know he’s got a lot of support out there, and he’s got my support, and I know there’s a lot of different branches and people who feel like he deserves justice.”

Graham based Barber’s petition for review in part on procedural violations by WSU’s conduct board, which, Graham alleges in his court filing, failed to ask all the questions Barber presented them with, and did not keep a record of questions submitted by Barber or the complainant. This violates rules in the state’s administrative procedures act that require an agency to maintain cross-examination questions as part of the official record. It also meant that Barber’s and the complainant’s questions were not available for the University Appeals Board to consider when he filed his appeal.

In a signed declaration supporting Barber’s filing, WSU Director of Football Operations Antonio Huffman stated that the conduct board did not ask all the questions he and Barber proposed during the hearing, many of which were designed to “help show that Robert acted in self defense and to also raise the possibility that the complainant may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident.”

“This could have affected his judgment at the time or his ability to correctly remember things,” Huffman stated in his declaration. “This was important because the complainant admitted to being seen snorting a white powder prior to the altercation, but he claimed that the powder was crushed caffeine pills, and not a controlled substance.”

Under WSU’s conduct board rules, students are not permitted to directly question one another, but have to submit questions through the board chair, who then has the discretion to decide which questions ask.

Graham contends the conduct board considered testimony from a witness when he wasn’t under oath, and alleges that the board “engaged in bias” in its decision against Barber.

Graham said in a phone interview that he also believes the Conduct Board was premature in its decision to hold Barber’s hearing on Sept. 7 because at that point, the police had not yet concluded their investigation into the party assault.

“It was clear the police officer who investigated the matter made it real clear that the case was still under investigation and there were certain things he was hesitant to talk about,” Graham said. “He wasn’t able to give witness statements or his police reports to the conduct board. He indicated that police had interviewed over 60 witnesses, but none of those witnesses were present at the hearing and none of their testimony was related to the conduct board.”

Overall, “There were a number of procedural irregularities that were shocking to me,” Graham said.

In his declaration, Huffman also noted that during Barber’s conduct board hearing, he felt as if conduct board chair Lisa McIntyre was “trying to put words in (Barber’s) mouth” which he thought put Barber at a disadvantage because “he is a very respectful person and very deferential to authority.”

“Having worked with other players from Polynesia, I have come to learn that this deference to authority is cultural for them,” Huffman stated. “One of the things that Robert explained to me that he was unable to convey to the board was just how it felt to be surrounded by multiple people that were all fighting.

“It created a surreal feeling for him and a flight or fight response that I feel led him to strike out at the first person who made physical contact with him.”

The conduct board’s case is based in large part on a video that surfaced after the party fight that showed a large Samoan man – whom they alleged to be Barber – punching another student.