Sexual-assault case against Joe Lonsdale dropped | News | Palo Alto Online |


Sexual-assault case against Joe Lonsdale dropped

Stanford reverses Title IX investigation conclusion, lifts 10-year campus ban

A civil case filed earlier this year against Joe Lonsdale, founder of Palo Alto software company Palantir, by a former girlfriend and Stanford University student who accused him of sexual assault and abuse, has been dismissed, as has a counterclaim Lonsdale filed in response, according to court documents filed Monday.

A joint stipulation to voluntarily dismiss both Elise Clougherty's lawsuit and Lonsdale's counterclaim was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Nov. 2.

Clougherty's lawsuit, filed Jan. 27, alleged that during a year-long romantic relationship with Lonsdale that began in February 2012 when Clougherty was an undergraduate, Lonsdale "continuously and systemically subjected Ms. Clougherty to repeated and incessant sexual assaults and abuse, employing psychological manipulation and coercion in order to confuse, isolate, and otherwise disorient Ms. Clougherty from appreciating the true danger of her situation," the lawsuit reads.

The two had met through Stanford's High Technology Entrepreneurship program, for which Lonsdale was serving as a mentor. Lonsdale is also a Stanford alumnus.

Lonsdale quickly denied all claims. The day after Clougherty filed her lawsuit, a website emerged – – in which Lonsdale describes Clougherty as "disturbed" and "vengeful" and indicated his intent to file a defamation lawsuit, which came the next month. Kristen Dumont, one of Lonsdale's attorneys, called Clougherty's lawsuit a "vile collection of lies and a transparent attempt to destroy the reputation and good name of Joe Lonsdale."

Stanford has also reversed the outcome of a February 2013 investigation that found Lonsdale had violated the university's Title IX policy. An outside investigator concluded at the time that Lonsdale had "engaged in conduct meeting the definitions of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct under Stanford's Title IX policy, and that it was 'more likely than not that (Ms. Clougherty) expressed to (Mr. Lonsdale) that she did not want to engage in the sexual conduct in question but that (Mr. Lonsdale) did not comply with (her) request,'" according to the lawsuit.

"As a result of new evidence that came to light during litigation between Mr. Lonsdale and Ms. Clougherty," university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin wrote in an email on Monday, "the investigator in a Stanford University Title IX matter involving both parties has determined that Mr. Lonsdale did not violate Stanford's Title IX policy."

Stanford has lifted a 10-year minimum campus ban imposed on Lonsdale as a result of the 2013 Title IX investigation, Lapin said. However, because Lonsdale and Clougherty did not disclose their relationship to Stanford per the university's Consensual Relationships policy, Lonsdale has agreed that he will not challenge a temporary mentoring and teaching suspension that the university imposed on him, Lapin said.

Clougherty, who was being represented by Hutchinson Black and Cook in Boulder, L. Lin Wood in Atlanta, and the Liu Law Firm in San Francisco, originally sought a jury trial and monetary damages of at least $75,000.

Lonsdale then sued Clougherty for $75,000 in damages and alleged that after they broke up in February 2013 she launched a "smear campaign" that caused significant "harm to his profession and occupation, expenses from responding to the statements, harm to his reputation, and shame, mortification, and hurt feelings," his counterclaim reads.

In a March 25 court document, Clougherty's attorneys described Lonsdale's counterclaims as "part of a highly orchestrated public relations campaign to silence and punish Ms. Clougherty for speaking up about sexual abuse."

In February, the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy piece on the relationship between Lonsdale and Clougherty and Stanford's handling of the allegations titled "The Stanford Undergraduate and the Mentor."

Lonsdale's legal counsel declined to comment for this story. Clougherty's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


71 people like this
Posted by Lara
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 3, 2015 at 11:14 am

I hope Lonsdale stays away from Stanford given his ethical compass seems to need a serious reset. Between his feeling free to have a sexual fling with a student he was mentoring and his making billions of dollars from data mining for the CIA, NSA, etc. as a founder of Palantir, he isn't qualified mentor anyone. Do no evil, Jon.

19 people like this
Posted by fred
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 3, 2015 at 12:27 pm

It is very hard to codify proper inter-gender behavior rules in this modern time. If we totally level the rules, we find that certain outcomes do not fit very comfortably, and may not lead to a sustainable social model. Yet, there is a strong idealistic determination to level the rules, and pretend that there are only size and physical strength differences between men and women. If we codify this in a body of law, it becomes hard to adjust it as social trends change.

Darwin rules. The people who manage modern gender roles in a shrewd way, such that they have multiple generations of capable families(>2kids), will be the winners. How to do this is hard to codify in a civil code or university policy. The freedoms we have make us more accountable to the personal judgements that we exercise.

The publicity and outcome of this scandal suggests that both parties exercised poor judgement.

53 people like this
Posted by icky
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Having a sexual relationship with the girl when you are associated with an "entrepreneurship program" at Stanford seems very unethical behavior and very unwise, regardless of the he-said, she-said aftermath, and it is unfair to the other students going about their education in an ethical fashion.
It is highly un-professional on the part of all parties in this icky drawn-out "relationship."
Yet the federal government sees fit to associate with this guy.
Yet the girl had sweetheart grades, I assume, from her lover?
Yet the other students were overlooked and under-served in the "entrepreneurship program."

4 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm

From the original article: Web Link

Read it before you post. It seems clear to me that the problem was this woman's mother, Title IX and that order. Lonsdale was probably the relative victim.

66 people like this
Posted by No Doubt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm

One thing Lonsdale is guilty of [portion removed] is using his position as mentor to influence a young impressionable student.

52 people like this
Posted by NYT's take
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2015 at 9:12 pm

This is what the NYT had to say about the case in Feb:
Web Link

1 person likes this
Posted by DNA
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 4, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Two people enjoyed a sexual relationship that apparently ended on a sour note! There's that DNA thing again -- men and woman are attracted to each other and boom -- a relationship starts. Are mothers telling their daughters about the power of testosterone, about how they need to be careful and use good judgment when they get involved with men? And are they telling them that sometimes things won't work out well and they'll need to exit the relationship? This was a two-way relationship over months and the young woman needs to take responsibility, as well as the gentleman. I'm a woman, and when young I enjoyed affairs with older men. When things go sour a young woman needs to leave the situation and learn from it. Both need to take responsibility and move on. I'm glad the suit's been dropped.

41 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 4, 2015 at 7:21 pm

So there was a sexual relationship between the mentor and student but that is just fine with Stanford. Is that right? Wow. [Portion removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by Alien
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 5, 2015 at 8:11 am

[Post removed.]

20 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Londale's relationship with this Stanford student seems to be a fractal of Palantir's relationship with Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by icky
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2015 at 8:58 pm

Web Link

From Business Insider -

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Pluto's appears to close after more than two decades in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 7,017 views

What Local Teens are Saying
By Sherry Listgarten | 19 comments | 2,821 views

Plastic vegie bag ban: Pragmatic? -- or simply politically correct?
By Diana Diamond | 35 comments | 2,097 views

Edible Education – Free Course - UC Berkeley Online
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,334 views

Letting Christmas Linger
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 542 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.