The Justice Files: Lawsuit claims BYU’s Honor Code unforgiving

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Jacob Gouchenour lived through a year of ridicule, shame and frustration.

And he said BYU and his ex-wife were to blame for his year of exile from the school.

“In the fall of 2016 my ex-wife filed a petition with Brigham Young University claiming I was abusive,” said Gouchenour.

The allegations of physical and sexual abuse by his 19-year-old wife at the time led to a suspension and eventually expulsion for violating BYU’s Honor Code, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

“Oh absolute shock,” said Gouchenour when he first learned of the complaint. “That’s not how our relationship happened and it was false statements.

The break up in marriage happened that summer in 2016 when goucheour and his then-wife Madeline Jones were living in Arizona.

The following year, the couple was ordered to share joint custody of their son William after their divorce was final.

“It was unacceptable to my wife and she ended up kidnapping my son the next day,” said Gouchenour.

Authorities were notified and a missing persons alert was issued in Arizona for mother and child. He said the ex-wife’s parents blamed him for their disappearance.

“(They were) even saying I helped hide them and to the extent of saying I was responsible for their deaths of course which was not the case,” said Gouchenour.

At the same time, the lawsuit claimed BYU expelled him after learning of those allegations.

Gouchenour said his family hired a private investigator to prove her journal outlining abuse allegations was false.

“We submitted this evidence of doctors and they took that and said ‘oh, it looks like we suspended you but that wasn’t enough,'” recalled Gouchenour. “So then they expelled me.”

But those same findings were submitted to the Arizona judge overseeing the couple’s divorce.

“It’s astounding to me that there was a finding by a judge who reviewed the same evidence that BYU had access to and that judge said no reasonable person could have found these claims or allegations to be meritorious,” said Justin Heideman, Gouchenour’s attorney.

He filed the lawsuit in U.S. federal court and claimed Gouchenour’s rights were violated by the school’s Title IX officer.

“The internal policies that BYU adopted have been violated,” Heideman said. “So BYU violated their own policy. They didn’t produce or allow for due process.”

Four months after Jones and their son disappeared they were found alive in Southern California.

Gouchenour said his divorce attorney subpoenaed several people associated with his ex-wife. One of those individuals eventually confessed to driving Jones to California.

It also turned out Jones’ own mother and father, Roland and Cassandra Jones helped hide mother and son from Gouchenour.

But the lawsuit claimed it took BYU nearly a year to clear his name and allow him to return to school.

“It was just obscene,” Gouchenour said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was completely baffled.”

Gouchenour now has full custody of his son and has since remarried.

“We’re trying to keep him safe and have justice served in all the capacities and this wrong that BYU and Title IX office has started needs to be fixed.”

Gouchenour said he is taking online courses at BYU and hopes to graduate in the coming year. But his attorney said he lost a year of school in addition to all the pain, suffering and costs associated with the expulsion.

As for his ex-wife, Maddie Jones, and her parents, they were criminally charged. But according to Arizona media accounts, they all avoided jail and were placed on probation.

BYU’s media relations office did not respond to our request for a comment about the lawsuit.

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