Defendant in alleged sexual assault case between FIJI and University of Iowa student denies sexual assault

Carson Steffen, one of the defendants in the alleged sexual assault against Makéna Solberg, is denying nonconsenual sexual activity and is seeking damages for defamation.


People stand in front Phi Gamma Delta during a protest following sexual assault allegations against the University of Iowa’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta on Tuesday Aug. 31, 2021.

Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor

Editor’s Note: This article contains references to sexual assault.

A man accused in a lawsuit against two former members of the University of Iowa’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter filed a counterclaim saying he did not commit sexual assault, according to court documents filed Monday.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Makéna Solberg, a UI student, on Oct. 26, states she was sexually assaulted by two members of the fraternity, also called FIJI, while attending a party at the FIJI house at 303 Ellis Ave. in Iowa City on Sept. 4-5, 2020. 

Carson Steffen, one of two men named in the suit, stated in his counterclaim that while engaged in sexual activity with Makéna Solberg, it was consensual. According to the court documents, he is seeking reparation for damages to his reputation and good name, loss of a future with earning capacity, and mental suffering. 

Solberg is suing Steffen and fellow former FIJI member Jacob Meloan; the Mu Deuteron Association of Phi Gamma Delta, which is the formal name for the Iowa FIJI chapter; and the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation, Inc., an arm of the national Phi Gamma Delta organization.

The documents filed on Steffen’s behalf by his lawyer, Leon Spies, state that Solberg’s claims against him were done with “willful and wanton disregard for the rights and safety” of the defendant.

Documents filed by Solberg’s lawyer, Eashaan Vajpeyi, allege that Steffen and Meloan planned to lead Solberg into one of their rooms. When Solberg complained of feeling sick, the documents state, one of the men offered her water and led her to his room.

Vajpeyi provided no comment when reached out to by The Daily Iowan. 

The documents state that the men engaged in sexual activity with Solberg without her consent, and say the alleged assault happened “while she was in an intoxicated, physically impaired, and physically vulnerable” and that the two men “were aware or should have been aware.”

While the alleged assault was going on, the documents state that the men recorded the incident without Solberg’s consent, and caused the video and photographs of the alleged assault to be shared among members of the fraternity.

Other FIJI members, including officers, told their members to delete the videos and photographs and not to report the incident, according to the documents. 

Police investigating the matter in 2020 found a GroupMe message from someone identified as “possibly the fraternity President” to another FIJI member advising members who received the images to delete them, according to search warrants.

Claims against the Mu Deuteron Association of Phi Gamma Delta and the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation, Inc., an arm of the national Phi Gamma Delta organization state the two organizations failed to supervise their members and protect guests during an official function at the fraternity house, documents claim.

The documents further say members of the fraternity “aided and abetted” the two men accused of assault by sharing the photos and “directing their deletion to hide the acts, and instructing solidarity in silence to its members which intended to, and have in fact, frustrated investigation into the sexual assault.

The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta, Inc. also filed documents on Monday stating that Solberg failed to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted” and requested that damages against the incorporation, if any, should be “decreased in the amount by which she failed to mitigate said damages.” 

The incorporation, listed as International Fraternity in the documents, states in its filings that at no point did it provide any other defendant in the case the authority to act on its behalf and “there is no duty owed by International Fraternity to Plaintiff to protect Plaintiff from negligent, intentional, or criminal actions of third parties.”

Resources for victims of sexual assault:

RVAP Crisis Line: 319-335-6000 or 800-228-1625

Women’s Resource & Action Center: 319-335-1486

National sexual assault hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline: 800-284-7821

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