Jury trial for FIJI sexual assault lawsuit set for July 2023

The trial has been set for July 11, 2023 at the Johnson County Courthouse.


People stand in front of 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.

Caleb McCullough, Executive Editor

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

A lawsuit over an alleged sexual assault by two former members of the University of Iowa’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity is set to go to a jury trial in July of 2023.

The suit, introduced by UI student Makéna Solberg in October, accuses Carson Steffen and Jacob Meloan, both former members of the fraternity commonly known as FIJI, of sexually assaulting her at a party in September of last year. The Iowa FIJI chapter — Mu Deuteron — and the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation, Inc., are also named as defendants in the suit.

According to court documents filed last week, the trial will start on July 11, 2023, at 9 a.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse. The case is assigned to Judge Kevin McKeever. A pre-trial conference will be held on June 30, 2023.

The trial is expected to take 10 days, according to an order setting the trial filed last week.

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

In the lawsuit, Solberg alleges that the men lured her into a room when she was intoxicated and had sex with her without her consent. The men were also accused of taking photos and sharing them with other fraternity members in a group chat.

The documents say the alleged assault happened “while she was in an intoxicated, physically impaired, and physically vulnerable” state and that the two men “were aware or should have been aware.”

Both men have denied the allegations. Neither Steffen nor Meloan deny having sex with Solberg, but they both claimed in separate court filings last month that it was consensual. Steffen also made counterclaims against Solberg, seeking reparation for damages to his reputation and name, loss of a future with earning capacity, and mental suffering.

RELATED: Iowa FIJI chapter denies wrongdoing in lawsuit over alleged sexual assault

In December, Steffen was arrested on a charge of harassment and is accused of sharing a sexual photo of a person without their consent on Sept. 5, 2020. Although the victim isn’t named in the criminal complaint, the timing lines up with allegations made by Solberg and Steffen subsequently had a no-contact order placed on him preventing him from contacting Solberg.

Lawyer seeks access to UI records

Solberg’s lawyer, Eashaan Vajpeyi, has also issued a subpoena attempting to gain information related to FIJI disciplinary action and any previous misconduct on Steffen and Meloan. Some of the information being sought in the subpoena is:

  • Any informal or formal complaint or disciplinary action against the UI’s FIJI chapter in the last five years and any related communication from UI members to members of the fraternity
  • Agendas and meeting materials of Interfraternity Council and other Greek council meetings where complaints and disciplinary action against FIJI were discussed
  • Documents and policies that dictate the conduct of fraternities and sororities and their members for recent academic years
  • Records regarding alleged sexual misconduct and other misconduct of Steffen and Meloan.

Both Steffen and Meloan have filed motions to quash the subpoena, saying the request for their academic records violates their right to privacy, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of student records in most cases.

Steffen’s lawyer, Leon Spies, claimed the subpoena is “overbroad and seeks material that is neither relevant nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence” in a court filing.

The deadline for the records has been put on hold at least until Vajpeyi delivers a response to the motion, and whether the subpoena will be thrown out has not been decided yet.