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Liberty University professor found not guilty of sexual battery

Liberty University
Liberty University(WDBJ)
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - A Liberty University professor charged with sexual battery appeared in court Friday.

William Atwell is a deaf sign language professor at Liberty University. He was previously charged with abduction. That charge was dropped in January.

According to his attorney, he’s been on leave since the incident in the fall.

In that incident, a female student alleges Atwell, a professor of hers at the time, had inappropriately touched her multiple times near his office on Liberty’s campus the Friday before Thanksgiving break.

Near the end of a shift she was working November 19, she and another student went to Atwell’s office in the same building to tell him goodbye.

She alleges Atwell told the other student to go away, and that after doing so, he hugged her and touched her inappropriately multiple times. She says shortly after that he hugged her again, this time from behind in a manner that placed his pelvis against her in a way that she says was inappropriate.

The other student testified Friday. She says Atwell told her to leave him and the victim alone. She also said she saw the first hug but didn’t see inappropriate touching and didn’t see the second hug at all.

Atwell testified Friday, saying that hugging is important in deaf culture. He also addressed the victim’s claims.

He said in the first incident he didn’t touch her inappropriately and denies the second incident happened, telling the court that he doesn’t hug people from behind. He also denied telling the other student to go away, saying that the other student willingly walked away on their own.

Ultimately, Judge Randy Krantz found Atwell not guilty of sexual battery. He said while he doesn’t have reason to believe the incidents didn’t happen, a legal standard was not met to find Atwell guilty.

The victim in the case asked for an extension of a protective order against Atwell. Krantz approved a 90-day extension.

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