Yann Hufnagel, an assistant men’s basketball coach for UC Berkeley, was found to have sexually harassed a reporter.
An assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of California Berkeley was fired this week after a university investigation determined he had sexually harassed a reporter who covered the team.
Yann Hufnagel admitted to investigators that he had repeatedly made sexual comments to a reporter and attempted to “‘trick her into going up to his apartment to have sex.” Hufnagel then cut off contact with the reporter, making it impossible for her to do her job.
The investigation found that men’s basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin had been made aware by the reporter of Hufnagel’s inappropriatene behavior six weeks before university officials were informed.
In a redacted report, investigators found that “over a period of time from November 2014 through May 2015, Complainant received sexually harassing communications from [Hufnagel] on a bi-weekly basis in response to Complainant’s attempts to communicate with Respondent for professional purposes.”
The reporter told investigators that in early 2015 she asked Hufnagel to meet with her for coffee after a basketball game, but he insisted they go to a bar. The reporter agreed to go to Jupiter, a bar and restaurant near campus, but did not consume alcohol while Hufnagel did. Hufnagel told the reporter he was too drunk to drive — which she later told Martin she didn’t believe — but he “insisted that she drive him to his residence. Complainant described that she told him “no” and suggested he take a taxi, but Respondent was insistent and Complainant ultimately acquiesced.”
The reporter was unable to stop in traffic in front of Hufnagel’s apartment, so he opened the door to his building’s garage, and she drove in to drop him off. She said Hufnagel “directed her to park in a designated spot—an elevator-operated ‘lift’ spot which would have suspended her car above the ground.”
“Complainant said she did not park in the spot and felt Respondent was attempting to control her ability to leave. She recalled telling Respondent that she was just going to turn around; to which Respondent responded, ‘You’re coming up.’ Complainant said she said, ‘No. I’m going to leave now,’ but Respondent kept insisting. Complainant said she asked Respondent, ‘Are you thinking that I’m going to have sex with you?’ to which Respondent said, ‘Yes.'”
She said they went back and forth for 15 minutes, during which “the garage door was closed behind them with her car inside and Respondent indicated that he did not intend to let her out of the garage.”
Later that year, the reporter tried to meet up with Hufnagel — her only source on the small college basketball team — for coffee. In text messages included in the university’s report, Hufnagel tries to steer the conversation toward her coming over to his apartment to “have a three-way.”
After the reporter was given bad information by Hufnagel, which she told investigators she “believes [Hufnagel] provided her with this misinformation as retribution for declining his sexual advances.”
In an interview with university investigators in October 2015, Hufnagel said that during the incident in his apartment building’s garage, he was “trying to trick her into going upstairs.”
In response to the text messages about coming over to his apartment and having a three-way, Hufnagel “said the text was inappropriate, but declined to characterize it as sexual harassment and described such a text as being indicative of the relationship he had with [the reporter] — a relationship he further described as being ‘playful.'” He said the text message about a three-way “was a joke.”
In an email, Hufnagel told investigators that “with no clear indication whatsoever from her to stop the behavior, it would be, truthfully, almost impossible to conclude that these types of ‘locker room messages’ were unwanted.”
In May 2015, the reporter reached out to head coach Cuonzo Martin on Twitter and “told him that she ‘experienced sexual harassment'” from Hufnagel. Martin told the reporter he would talk to Hufnagel, and that he “[took] this very seriously.” In a statement to investigators, Martin said the reporter did not “[provide] any details or [describe] anything as constituting sexual harassment.”
In July of 2015, the reporter emailed Martin copies of text messages between her and Hufnagel, along with a follow-up request to discuss Hufnagel’s behavior.
It was then that the UC Berkeley Athletic Department was made aware of the allegations, and then reached out to the “Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.”
UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof told BuzzFeed News Wednesday that the university is conducting a “review” of how mandatory reporting processes were handled with regard to Hufnagel. “Not because we think that there was anything wrong, but because we want to make sure there wasn’t.” Mogulof said they will review correspondence between Martin and the reporter, but asserted that it is a “review,” not an “investigation.”
The reporter told investigators in a follow-up interview “that she felt very beholden to [Hufnagel] because of the dynamic of [him] having the [REDACTED] information and knowing that [she] needed that information. [She] stated that she felt [Hufnagel] tried to explain that dynamic. [She] stated that [Hufnagel’s behavior pattern was a problem for her. [She] acknowledged that she played along with [Hufnagel’s] behavior because she did not see a viable alternative that would also allow her to do her job.”
The university determined that Hufnagel had violated the university’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy.
Hufnagel was fired by the university Monday. In a tweet Monday, he said: “Right now, the only focus should be on our basketball team! My time to exonerate myself of a fruitless claim by a reporter will come.”
The UC Berkeley men’s basketball team plays Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.