Cops and Courts

Sexual assault case against former WVU fraternity member heads to grand jury

A sexual assault case involving a former WVU fraternity member will move forward to be heard by a 2023 Monongalia County grand jury.

According to court records, in December, second degree sexual assault charges were brought against Joseph William McMasters, 22, of Broomall, Pa., in relation to an alleged incident at a 2021 Pi Lambda Phi fraternity party at the former Blaze Nightclub in Morgantown.

The victim claims she felt intoxicated after consuming multiple alcoholic beverages at the party, some of which were allegedly purchased for her by McMasters as the victim was not of age to purchase alcohol.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Morgantown Police in December 2022, McMasters took the intoxicated female to his apartment where she said he sexually assaulted her as she was “in and out of consciousness.”

Court records show McMasters pleaded not guilty to the charge on Dec. 15 and waived the right to a preliminary hearing last week, moving the case from Magistrate Court to Circuit Court.  The case will now be heard by a grand jury to determine if enough evidence exists for an indictment.

McMasters is also listed as one of the defendants in a civil suit reported on by The Dominion Post on Dec. 2, which includes Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity, Blaze Nightclub, and several individual parties as the other defendants.

The lawsuit claims Pi Lambda Phi failed to supervise the “restricted” event in compliance with WVU’s Center for Fraternal Values and Leadership mandates by allowing underage drinking, not having the appropriate number of sober monitors, and not providing “reasonable care” to guests leaving the function.

The victim also alleges owners of Blaze Nightclub, which is no longer in operation, were negligent in their legal duties by allowing her to obtain and consume alcohol on its premises when she was underage.

The suit also claims that during the event, the victim fell over a table and knocked over a tower of wooden blocks due to her condition and the club did not have adequate security staff present to prevent such a scenario.   

The suit states Pi Lambda Phi and its officers ignored the plaintiff’s extreme intoxication and allowed McMaster to take the plaintiff to his residence where, “he took advantage of [her]  obviously inebriated state by engaging in a sexual intrusion of her without consent.”

Defendants to the lawsuit have motioned for dismissal, however the alleged victim has requested a jury trial in addition to compensatory and punitive damages, as the court deems appropriate.

Mark McMillian, attorney for McMasters, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.