Ithaca College president under fire over sex abuse conviction from 17 years ago

The new Ithaca College president is making headlines this week after at least two college newspapers published anonymous documents they received about a 17-year-old criminal case involving her.

The Ithacan student newspaper and the Vanderbilt Hustler both published stories on Tuesday evening detailing information they received regarding a 2001 sex abuse case in which College President Shirley M. Collado pleaded no contest.

According to the articles, Collado, who worked at The Center at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington in D.C. at the time, was accused of having a five-month sexual relationship with a female patient who was undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress in 2000.

“In light of the resurfacing of this legal action, I want to unequivocally state now, as I did then, that the accusations in the court documents are simply not true.”

- Shirley M. Collado, President of Ithaca College

The victim claimed they entered a sexual relationship after Collado kissed her and said these actions – which included fondling and kissing – would be “therapeutic for the victim; that it would bring her out of her shell,” the Government’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing said during the case, according to the Hustler.

Collado was convicted of one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse in August 2001 after pleading no contest. She received a 30-day suspension, 18 months of supervised probation, and 80 hours of community service. She was also force to pay a $250 fine and ordered to stay away from the patient.

Ithica College

Shirley Collado has been serving as president of Ithaca College since June 2017.  (Ithaca College)

Collado insists she is innocent, even though she pleaded no contest.

“Recently, I learned that an anonymous source has been circulating misleading information to other colleges and universities and their news outlets about a traumatic time in my like that took place almost 20 years ago,” she wrote in a statement on the college’s website released to students Tuesday.

“Seeing how profoundly the facts and my character are being misrepresented and being forced to relive the pain of that time have left me feeling upset, perplexed and targeted. I do not know who is disseminating this information or how widely it is being shared.”

She continued: “In light of the resurfacing of this legal action, I want to unequivocally state now, as I did then, that the accusations in the court documents are simply not true.”

A college spokesman referred all questions to Collado’s letter on the college’s website.

READ COLLADO'S FULL STATEMENT HERE

The documents were sent as many people are speaking out about sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations because of the #MeToo movement. It’s unclear who sent the documents.

Aidan Quigley, who wrote the article and serves as the editor-in-chief at The Ithacan, told Fox News on Wednesday that the publication received the package last month. After deliberating with his team, it was decided due to the serious nature of the allegations that they would pursue the story.

“My team weighed the seriousness of the allegations and decided to explain them to the community,” he said, adding that he stands by the reporting. “The reporting speaks for itself.”

"My team weight the seriousness of the allegations and decided to explain them to the community."

- Aidan Quigley, Editor-in-Chief of The Ithacan

Quigley said they had originally planned to publish the story on Wednesday, but decided to do it a day earlier after Collado sent the letter out to students on Tuesday. He said college officials also received the package with the documents.

The Hustler, who said it received the package with documents during the university’s winter break, reported it reached out to Ithaca College for comment on Jan. 13. Collado received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt and serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Nashville, TN, USA - July 10, 2013: The exterior of Kirkland Hall on the campus of Vanderbilt University. The building is the oldest on campus dating from 1874.

Collado received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and serves on the university's Board of Trust.  (iStock)

According to court documents cited by The Ithacan and the Hustler, the patient alleged she and Collado kissed after most individual therapy sessions for several weeks.

Collado resigned from The Center after her husband committed suicide in July 2000 and the patient moved in with her “shortly after” she was discharged from the hospital.

The patient claimed sexual contact with Collado continued while they were living together, however, when she was asked to move out in October 2000, she told other employees at The Center about the alleged relationship.

In her letter on Tuesday, Collado acknowledged that she did invite the woman into the home she shared with a roommate, “but after a brief period I realized that I could not provide the support she was looking for while I myself was trying to heal.”

“So , I let her know that she could no longer stay with us and helped her move out,” Collado wrote, adding later: “I fought the charge to the best of my ability, but my fighting spirit was limited by so many things. I was in my twenties, had very little money and resources and was grieving a profound personal loss.”

Following the conviction, Collado went on to hold administrative roles at several higher education institutions, including serving as vice president of Student Affairs and dean of Middlebury College until 2014, where she was responsible for developing sexual misconduct and judicial policies, the Hustler reported.

Middlebury college

Collado served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Middlebury College until 2014. She was responsible for developing sexual misconduct and judicial policies.  (Middlebury College)

Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees said it stands behind Collado, saying she was “extremely forthright” when the conviction was brought to light during the interview and vetting process last year.

“It is evident that Dr. Collado’s subsequent life experiences, her professional successes, and her empathetic nature demonstrate resilience of character and an ability to both learn and grow from an extremely challenging set of circumstances,” the statement read. “She was the right choice when she was named president of Ithaca College last year, and her first six months in office have only reinforced our belief in what an exceptional person and leader she truly is.”

The college also referenced an interview Collado gave for its website soon after it was announced she would be the new president in which she mentioned the old case against her.

Vanderbilt University officials said they were unaware of the charges when Collado was appointed to the Board of Trust.

“Shirley Collado spoke openly and publicly about this issue at the time of her vetting and appointment as president of Ithaca College, which is when Vanderbilt became aware of the matter,” the university said in a statement to the Hustler. “She has consistently denied these accusations. These accusations will not affect her status on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust.”

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang