A judge agreed to release a University of Florida student accused of attempted sexual assault last week on non-monetary bond after his attorneys argued he was a “high-achieving student” and community leader.
Ian Milaski, 21, was accused of attempting to sexually assault a female student on Aug. 25, when he tried to kiss her in his room, told her he wanted to sleep with her and physically restrained her by the wrist, according to a university police report. When the woman tried to leave, he “grabbed her and physically picked her up off the ground and placed her on the bed,” and then “positioned himself on top of her,” according to the police report.
“He kept trying to ‘finger her’ [through] her underwear, and refused to let her go despite her cries to stop,” the report stated.
The woman ultimately ran from the room and asked a friend to stay with her because she was “so shaken up and scared.” Later that night, she heard her dorm room door open, and Milaski attempted to get into bed with her, according to the report.
Milaski was arrested on Aug. 28 and charged with simple battery and false imprisonment. He pleaded not guilty.
Ronald Kozlowski, Milaski’s attorney, says the incident described in the police report was “quite obviously” not an example of sexual assault.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network defines sexual assault as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim,” including fondling or unwanted sexual touching. Under Florida law, a simple battery charge involves an intentional act of touching or striking another person against their will, while sexual battery is a more severe charge involving “oral, anal or vaginal penetration” without consent.
Milaski’s bond was initially set at $125,000. But his attorney filed an emergency motion requesting that Milaski be released on his own recognizance “to avoid financial hardship” and fulfill his academic obligations as a senior majoring in business and economics. He also cited a need for Milaski to help his parents prepare for Hurricane Dorian.
“As the evidence emerges in this case, it will be shown to be a misunderstanding among platonic friends fueled by alcohol,” Kozlowski wrote in the emergency motion. “Nothing in Mr. Milaski’s past suggests he is a threat to the community at large.”
Circuit Court Judge Mark Moseley granted the motion, and Milaski was released last week, subject to GPS monitoring. He is not allowed to contact the alleged victim, nor return to campus except for “necessary events,” according to court documents.
In a statement to TIME, the university confirmed Milaski is no longer allowed on campus. “The University of Florida places the highest priority on the safety of its students and the security of its campus,” a university spokesperson said. “While federal law prevents us from releasing information related to the educational records of individual students, Ian Milaski is no longer a resident assistant.”
The case comes at a time of heightened attention to how the criminal justice system handles cases of sexual assault — including recent high-profile cases in which young men appeared to be treated more leniently by judges and the criminal justice system at large because of their upbringing or academic potential.
In 2016, Brock Turner served half of a six-month jail sentence after a jury found him guilty of three felony charges of sexual penetration and intent to commit rape against an intoxicated, unconscious woman. During sentencing, Judge Aaron Persky said “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner, who was a Stanford student at the time of the assault, and would result in “significant collateral consequences” for him. The sentence was widely criticized as too lenient, and Persky was recalled by California voters in 2018.
In July, Judge James Troiano in New Jersey resigned after facing intense backlash for saying a teenager accused of rape “comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well.” The teen was accused of sexually assaulting a girl at a party, where he filmed himself penetrating her from behind while she appears to be intoxicated. The teen sent the video to several friends and later sent a text that said, “when your first time having sex was rape,” according to court documents.
Troiano denied prosecutors’ motion to try the 16-year-old boy as an adult last year, questioning whether the incident had been an assault and describing the defendant’s texts as “just a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends.” “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college,” Troiano said at the time. “His scores for college entry were very high.”
Advocates for victims of sexual assault have pointed to such cases as an example of why victims often don’t come forward to report an assault in the first place.
“This is rape culture,” the advocacy group End Rape on Campus tweeted about the Troiano case in July. “Unacceptable.”
But Kozlowski says the law directs a judge to consider things like a defendant’s past conduct in the community and their family ties when making a decision about bail.
“Because there is this awareness about accusations of sexual assault on college campuses, what a lot of people seem to be saying is [that] those guys should be treated differently than the rest of the people, and that’s not true either,” Kozlowski tells TIME. “They should be treated the same under the law because that’s what the law requires, and that’s what the judge has done.”