Editor’s Note: This statement is the response from Geoff Marcy’s attorney. Read Sara Ganim’s report on harassment in the field of astronomy here.

CNN  — 

1. Regarding Dr. Sarah Ballard’s remarks:

In 2005, a private conversation occurred between Geoff Marcy and Sarah Ballard. Dr. Ballard was seeking advice regarding personal matters, including a romantic relationship in which she was involved. When Dr. Ballard expressed distress about these subjects, Dr. Marcy briefly touched her on the back of her neck as a gesture of support. When interviewed about the matter by U.C. Berkeley investigators, Dr. Ballard herself noted that the gesture was consistent with Dr. Marcy being supportive and was “apropos of our discussion about my new relationship, which was bumpy at the time.” At no time during their joint tenure at U.C. Berkeley, nor at any point since, did any conversation between Dr. Marcy and Dr. Ballard include a discussion or proposal of a sexual relationship between them, nor did Dr. Marcy ever make any statement of attraction towards Dr. Ballard.

Dr. Marcy was deeply mortified to learn that, ten years after their conversation, Dr. Ballard told U.C. Berkeley investigators that she perceived his gesture as sexual harassment. Dr. Marcy wants Dr. Ballard to know that his gesture was not intended as a sexual advance. He takes full responsibility for being insensitive and tone-deaf to the fact that his physical gesture could and did put Dr. Ballard in the untenable situation of not knowing what he intended.

Since their conversation in the car in 2005, Dr. Marcy has continued to support Dr. Ballard’s professional work. Rather than in any way impeding her academic and professional progress, he has written numerous strong letters of recommendation on her behalf, including ones in support of her candidacy for a prestigious prize at U.C. Berkeley and her admission to graduate school at Harvard. Dr. Marcy and Dr. Ballard have co-authored eight professional research papers together over the last ten years. These papers are:

The Kepler-19 System: A Transiting 2.2 R? Planet and a Second Planet Detected via Transit Timing Variations

Validation of 12 Small Kepler Transiting Planets in the Habitable Zone

Validation of Twelve Small Kepler Transiting Planets in the Habitable Zone

VizieR Online Data Catalog: Small Kepler planets radial velocities

Masses, Radii, and Orbits of Small Kepler Planets: The Transition from Gaseous to Rocky Planets

Two Earth-sized planets orbiting Kepler-20

Kepler-22b: A 2.4 Earth-radius Planet in the Habitable Zone of a Sun-like Star

The Hot-Jupiter Kepler-17b: Discovery, Obliquity from Stroboscopic Starspots, and Atmospheric Characterization

2. Regarding Jessica Kirkpatrick:

First and foremost, and throughout his career, Dr. Marcy has been committed to and been an activist for the advancement of women in science. He has also demonstrated a vigorous and unwavering support of the long overdue efforts to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from all work places, including academia.

In recent years, U.C. Berkeley has been extremely attentive to and diligent regarding issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. Berkeley and other universities have been under close scrutiny for years by the federal government, which has motivated them to become more transparent and responsive to such issues, as well they should. In the case of Dr. Marcy, a six-month investigation, which included interviews of dozens of witnesses and consisted of the conscientiously considered judgment of administrators and investigators, resulted in the imposition of probation and strict behavioral guidelines for Dr. Marcy.

The notion that probation was an outrageous consequence and that Dr. Marcy should be forever banned from participating in the astronomical world, simply ignores the fact that U.C. Berkeley carefully and responsibly crafted a consequence that was proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the allegations made against him. All human misconduct falls along a spectrum. In our society, for example, we do not treat an unconsented-to touching with the same punishment as a forcible rape. The notion that “zero tolerance”means that the punishment for any misconduct deemed to be sexual harassment, regardless of where it falls on the spectrum, is complete banishment from one’s profession undermines the principles of due process and basic justice that we have strived for centuries to achieve.