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Investigation finds alleged rape, other acts of misconduct led to expulsion of ex-Washington State football player

UPDATED: Fri., July 31, 2020

Former WSU linebacker Dominick Silvels.  (WSU Athletics)
Former WSU linebacker Dominick Silvels. (WSU Athletics)

An ex-Washington State football player who believes he was wrongly accused of rape is being backed by dozens of former teammates after screenshots of a conversation with his accuser were leaked to the public earlier this week. A university investigation, however, revealed a larger, more complex story of someone who’d been accused of multiple acts of misconduct, including allegedly recording videos of sexual acts with women without consent, and subsequently sending those to his accuser, a former girlfriend.

Dominick Silvels, a linebacker from San Diego who led the Cougars in sacks two seasons ago, spent the 2019 football season away from the team while he worked through what former coach Mike Leach described as “personal issues.”

Those issues, left undisclosed at the time, have since been brought to light through a series of social media exchanges and university documents.

Tuesday afternoon, a series of tweets from someone who described herself as a former friend of Ashlee Watson, the girl Silvels sporadically dated for approximately five years, divulged what kept the player off the field during his junior year, and ultimately led to his expulsion from WSU.

In a direct message to The Spokesman-Review on Wednesday, Silvels alleged that Watson, who also lives in his hometown of San Diego and attended Patrick Henry High School, sent an email to WSU in May 2019 accusing him of rape. Silvels was expelled from the school on Dec. 9, 2019, he confirmed to the S-R, and entered the NCAA’s transfer portal one day later.

Watson didn’t respond to a text message from the S-R seeking comment, but has since used her Instagram account to post screenshots of WSU’s investigation report – information that offers more clarity and detail, not just about the sexual assault accusation, but other incidents that guided the school’s decision-making process in expelling Silvels.

Additionally, Watson posted a 3½-minute video from her Instagram account Thursday night in which she recited her version of the story, growing visibly emotional near the end of the clip when she said “rape feels as if someone murdered you but you are still considered living by society.”

Silvels, 21, has aggressively denied the allegations and in an Instagram post of his own Thursday night, acknowledged he’d seen Watson’s video, cautioning “don’t worry I have soo many more screenshots and evidence” and commented “don’t worry I’ll make my own video with everything start to finish.”

Screenshots from an Instagram post by Ashlee Watson, the ex-girlfriend of former Washington State football player Dominick Silvels, display the results of an investigation conducted by WSU's Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation.
Screenshots from an Instagram post by Ashlee Watson, the ex-girlfriend of former Washington State football player Dominick Silvels, display the results of an investigation conducted by WSU's Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation.

According to the investigation report, filed on Aug. 20, 2019, by WSU’s Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (formerly the Office for Equal Opportunity), the “reporting party” (Watson) alleged the “respondent” (Silvels) “recorded and subsequently showed her recordings of him engaging in sexual intercourse with female WSU undergraduate students which she did not want to see, nor did it appear that he had consent to record or to show her.”

Watson also alleges Silvels, “knowingly exposed female WSU undergraduate students to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), without their knowledge” and that he “threatened to release on social media a recording of (Silvels) engaging in sexual intercourse with her; She was not aware he had recorded this instance of sexual intercourse and he did not have consent to do so.”

Additionally, Silvels is alleged to have “engaged in retaliation and interference by attempting to intimidate (Watson) through communications through a friend and through social media, prior to the commencement of the CCRI matter.”

The second page of the document displays Watson’s accusation of sexual assault, indicating the incident took place on May 2, 2019, “by use of force at her residence in San Diego, California.”

Per the report, Watson claims Silvels “transmitted an STI to (Watson)” on May 2, 2019, “and that in conversations after this incident, he showed her a falsified medical record stating that he did not have the STI.”

During the investigation, CRCI spoke to Silvels, Watson and five other witnesses whose names are redacted in the report. Three of the witnesses are described to be friends of Watson and two more are friends of Silvels. All five attend an unspecified community college in San Diego.

Silvels vehemently denies the allegations of sexual assault and points to a series of screenshots capturing a conversation between him and Watson on the social media platform Snapchat. A segment of that conversation is displayed below.

Watson: “Hey how are you feeling?”

Silvels: “I’m (frustrated) honestly”

Watson: “At me?”

Silvels: “Partially. But more at the school because they don’t have any physical evidence yet they found me responsible for it.”

Watson: “Why are you upset with me?”

Silvels: “Because if you would have told them the truth… what you told me. This wouldn’t be happening.”

Watson: “What did I tell you?”

Silvels: “That you never said no and that you wanted to have sex that day and that I didn’t force you…. you made the first move.”

Watson: “Dom I know and I feel really bad I didn’t think this would go this far. I was just really mad at you for the things you said to me and how you were treating me. Like the things you said about the video.”

Silvels: “Ok if you said all that why couldn’t you just email the school and tell them exactly what you told me.. And I told you that I never had a video and you know that Ashlee.”

Watson: “The only reason I didn’t tell the school is because I already provided them with so much and didn’t want to go back on what I said and they consider me a liar.”

Silvels: “Ok but ashlee now I’m expelled.”

Watson: “I know and I wish I could take this all back but I cant and I’m sorry.”

The initial tweet thread, posted at 3:51 p.m. Tuesday, has been retweeted more than 1,200 times and a petition titled “Help get Dominick Silvels back in school and back on the field!!” has already received more than 23,000 signatures, though it’s worth noting the vast majority of those occurred before Watson came forth with copies of the investigation report. Dozens of current and former WSU players have shared the original Twitter thread in defense of their ex-teammate – many of them calling for the university to take action and reinstate Silvels.

 

Silvels had yet to hear from the university as of 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, he told the S-R, and WSU Vice President for Marketing and Communications Phil Weiler said in an email response Thursday, “Student privacy rules prevent us from discussing specific student behavioral issues.” Per its policy, WSU’s athletic department does not comment on campus-related matters, even those that involve current or former student-athletes.

Although Silvels entered the NCAA transfer portal on Dec. 10, allowing him to contact other schools, the player is seeking reinstatement at WSU and hopes the school will reevaluate his situation, he indicated in a series of direct messages to the S-R.

“This has been a difficult year for me. Defending my innocence and missing out on being a student-athlete has taken a toll on me and my family,” Silvels wrote in the message. “Washington State was put in a tough position. They were presented with an allegation and did their best with the information they had at the time. It was frustrating to have false information used to take away something I love – the opportunity to be a student-athlete, to be with my teammates, and to play the game I love.

“But it is hard to prove something did not happen. But WSU knows the truth now. My goal through all of this is to protect my name with the truth, and to get back to school and playing football in a positive environment. Now that the truth is out, I hope that WSU will do the right thing and make the right decision on its own.”

In another tweet, Silvels alleges Watson never filed a police report, only sending her accusation to WSU via email. He also claims “the coaches at WSU were sticking with me and trying to help as much as they could.”

Although screenshots of the Snapchat conversation between Silvels and Watson weren’t revealed to the general public until earlier this week, Watson alleges in her Instagram video the CRCI had access to those documents during the investigation and claims Silvels filed multiple appeals, albeit without any success. The documents provided by Watson don’t show proof of Silvels’ appeals and the S-R does not have direct evidence those exist.

“Evidence presented in that investigation contains the same screenshots that the public is attempting to use against me through social media,” Watson said. “Despite numerous appeals, his expulsion was upheld.

“If they truly wanted justice, they would have done this a long time ago. But instead, Chachi and Taytum (former friends of Watson) waited until they both had a falling out with me, to do so.”

In another conversation between Silvels and Watson on Instagram, Watson tells Silvels, “Dominick you need to tell people what you did I have left your name out of everything to keep it private YOU RAPED ME THOSE EXACT SCREENSHOTS DOM were used in the case.”

She later explains “That is the truth” and claims “there were rips IN MY VAGINA.”

Watson’s video also reveals she and Silvels had been engaged in an “on again, off again” relationship for five years, which she described to be “abusive and toxic.”

Silvels and Watson continued their relationship after the alleged sexual assault occurred, she said. Watson explained in the video “an abuser needs their victim just as much as a victim needs their abuser. We latched onto each other destroying each other emotionally before there was nothing left.”

In the fifth page of WSU’s investigation, it’s suggested that Watson was compliant with the university and “her statements were internally consistent.” The report, however, claims Silvels’ statements “appeared spontaneous and did not appear rehearsed.” It also describes Silvels’ behavior as “cavalier” in his discussions with investigators and notes Silvels “admitted to some of the conduct as described in the allegations which bolstered the credibility of those statements.”

The report alleges Silvels’ behavior was inconsistent and dishonest when Watson advised he get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. In a text message, Silvels said results of the test would come in “tomorrow” but the report also shows he said “I’m not gonna tell you what happens.”

Another series of documents posted on Instagram by Ashlee Watson indicate former Washington State football player Dominick Silvels  provided contradicting reports to Watson, his ex-girlfriend, and CRCI investigators.
Another series of documents posted on Instagram by Ashlee Watson indicate former Washington State football player Dominick Silvels provided contradicting reports to Watson, his ex-girlfriend, and CRCI investigators.

According to Watson, Silvels sent her a screenshot of text messages from an unidentified team doctor that read “You’re clean” and “I don’t know if this girl is pulling your leg but you are fine.” When investigators questioned Silvels, he admitted the text messages weren’t true and he had never been tested by a team doctor.

Silvels told Watson in a text message “No (the test) came back negative why are you mad lol,” but also confirmed to investigators he hadn’t been tested for STDs since 2017 – something he claims to have communicated to Watson.

Investigators also learned Silvels sent Watson a screenshot from his phone containing a WSU Health Portal email from a doctor stating, “Yes, non-reactive means negative.” The email didn’t contain a date, but stated “the results were for ‘M 18,’ which stands for male, 18 years of age.”

Silvels was 20 years of age at the time of the text conversation with Watson, but after acquiring a screenshot of the same email with a date, investigators learned the email was actually sent on Nov. 29, 2017. CRCI decided it was likely “(Silvels) knowingly showed (Watson) outdated information about his medical results and falsely represented that it was current, by removing the date information.”

After Silvels missed his second game in 2019, a Sept. 17 contest against Northern Colorado, Leach told the S-R postgame he expected the linebacker to rejoin the team at some point during the season. Nearly a month later, the coach said it was “befuddling” that he didn’t have any new information on Silvels’ status and commented, “I’m kind of curious why I don’t have an update.” Asked about the player for a third time, in early November, Leach said, “You always remind me and I need to follow up on (Silvels).”

A graduate of San Diego’s Patrick Henry High, Silvels, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds on WSU’s 2019 roster, played both inside linebacker and “rush” linebacker positions for the Cougars, thriving in the latter role during the team’s record 11-win 2018 season. Silvels started in three games but played in all 13 while splitting time with Willie Taylor III and registered a team-high 4.5 sacks to go with 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 25 tackles in total.

It’s unclear if Silvels is still living in Pullman full time, but recent Instagram posts suggest he’s there this week. Another photo from early July showed him working out in San Diego with former WSU and Patrick Henry teammate Dezmon Patmon, along with other NFL and college players.

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Tags: football, wsu

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