Baylor Rape Victim Settles Lawsuit Against School

August 16, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – A former Baylor University student who claims school counselors told her they were too busy to see her after she was raped by a football player settled her lawsuit against the school, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Irwin Zalkin, of San Diego, said his client, Jasmine Hernandez, is “very happy” with the settlement and that “we are moving on.” He declined to discuss monetary figures.

“I can’t talk about the terms of the agreement,” he toldthe Waco Tribune-Herald. “But I’ll let you guess.”

Baylor declined to comment on the settlement announcement.

Hernandez sued the Baylor Board of Regents, former head football coach Art Briles and former athletic director Ian McCaw in March 2016 in federal court for gender discrimination and negligence. She claimed football player Tevin Elliott grabbed her at a party near campus in 2012 and raped her behind a secluded shack.

Zalkin moved to have Briles and McCaw dropped from the lawsuit earlier Tuesday.

Elliott has been accused of raping or assaulting at least five women between October 2009 and April 2012. He was sentenced in 2014 to 20 years in prison on each of two counts of sexual assault.

Hernandez claims that when her mother was told by school counselors that they were too busy to see her, she was also rejected by the psychology department at Baylor’s Student Health Center. She claims that the school’s Academic Services Department later told her that even “if a plane falls on your daughter, there’s nothing we can do to help you.”

Hernandez alleges her parents tried to contact Briles, but that neither he nor anyone from his office called back. A nursing student on an academic scholarship, Hernandez claims her grades suffered after the rape, resulting in the loss of the scholarship and her dropping out of school.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman refused Baylor’s requests to dismiss the lawsuit in April 2016, although he did pare some claims.

The growing number of rape accusations against football players resulting in the school’s board hiring Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct an external investigation into the school’s handling of the cases. The damning results released in May 2016 resulted in the removal of former school president Ken Starr, Briles and McCaw.

Regent Ron Murff apologized to the sexual assault victims at the time, saying “we are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors endured.”

Baylor asked Judge Pitman in June 2016 for more time to file an answer to Hernandez’ lawsuit, indicating it was trying to settle the case.

Later that month, Zalkin made explosive allegations against Briles, saying that he reneged on a promise to come to a mediation session “to support Jasmine” and “help her, and to apologize to her and her family.”

Briles allegedly reached a settlement with the school on the remaining years on his contract the day of the mediation. Zalkin denounced Briles at the time as using “the threat of helping” his client “as leverage” to negotiate his own claim against the school.

Briles steadfastly denied the allegations, asking to be dropped from the lawsuit in July 2016.

Briles’ attorney, W. Mark Lanier, of Houston, said Tuesday that other schools have contacted the coach and he expects his client to be coaching next year.

“There’s no question this is one step toward him getting back into coaching,” Lanier told the Tribune-Herald. “He did not want to get back into coaching until he finished through the legal system.”

Lanier confirmed Hernandez had dropped her claims against Briles and did not ask for money or an apology.

“He does feel bad for anybody who was hurt at all,” he said. “Whether through Baylor or otherwise, he’s still got a soft heart for a victim of any crime at all. He’s cognizant of that.”

From Courthouse News.

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Baylor Can’t Duck Rape Victim’s Federal Lawsuit

April 11, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – A Texas federal judge refused to dismiss a former Baylor University student-rape victim’s deliberate-indifference lawsuit against school trustees, former head football coach Art Briles and former athletic director Ian McCaw, though he pared some claims.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman denied Baylor’s motions to dismiss Jasmin Hernandez’s state negligence claim and a Title IX claim that the defendants’ bungling heightened the risk for all students.

Hernandez sued in April 2016, claiming school counselors told her they were too busy to see her after she was raped by former football player Tevin Elliott. Elliott was sentenced to 20 years in state prison in 2014 for the rape. Hernandez claims the school knew of at least six previous assaults Elliott committed against female students.

“‘Disturbing’ is an apt descriptor for allegations that defendants put the interests of the football team or the reputation of the university ahead of other students’ interest in not being sexually assaulted, ultimately leading to plaintiff’s own sexual assault by Elliott,” Judge Pitman’s 27-page order states.

Mounting accusations of rape by football players led trustees to order an external review by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton in 2015. The findings were damning, as Pepper Hamilton accused administrators of “directly discouraging” women from reporting sexual assaults and in one case retaliated against a woman for it. The fallout from the investigation claimed the jobs of Briles, McCaw and Baylor President Ken Starr.

Pitman wrote that he is “satisfied” Hernandez pled sufficient facts to state a plausible post-reporting sexual harassment claim.

“The court finds that plaintiff has plausibly alleged Baylor was deliberately indifferent to her report of sexual assault, thereby depriving her of educational opportunities to which she was entitled,” the judge wrote. “She also alleges that Baylor failed to adequately investigate her assault and failed to ensure she would not be subjected to continuing assault and harassment.”

Pitman did dismiss an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and granted a motion to dismiss a Title IX claim that Baylor bungled her post-rape complaints due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Pitman was not persuaded that her post-assault claim should be tolled.

“Plaintiff knew of her post-reporting injury, including her continuing vulnerability to Elliott’s presence on campus, in 2012,” Pitman wrote. “She also knew that Baylor had failed to intervene. Further, because she notified Baylor of her assault, plaintiff knew the university had actual knowledge of her assault and her continuing vulnerability to Elliott.”

It appeared in June 2016 that the parties were close to a settlement, as Baylor regents filed for a 30-day extension to its deadline for filing an answer.

Hernandez made explosive accusations against Briles that month, claiming he reneged on a promise to apologize to her for using her lawsuit as leverage in negotiating a buyout of his contract.

Her attorney, San Diego-based Alex Zalkin, said Friday they are happy his client will get to pursue her case.

“(W)e’ll have an opportunity as well to expose publicly what really has gone on,” Zalkin told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “Even though we’ve all got a pretty good taste, it seems there’s probably much more behind the scenes that needs to be obtained and exposed.”

Baylor said it is reviewing the judge’s order.

“We understand that some of the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed, while other claims will be permitted to proceed,” Baylor said in a statement. “Baylor will not waver in its promise to continuously improve its processes and systems to respond to incidents of sexual violence or in its support for the well-being and safety of all students.”

From Courthouse News.

Texas Senate OKs Tough Bill on Campus Sex Crime

April 6, 2017
By David Lee

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – In response to the Baylor University rape scandal, the Texas Senate on Tuesday passed a measure that would require school employees and student leaders to report sex crimes within 48 hours or face criminal charges.

The Senate approved SB 576 by 30-1 vote — one of its co-authors was the only No vote. The bill by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, requires all school employees and “the highest ranking member of a student organization” to report allegations of “sexual harassment, sexual assault, family violence, or stalking” to a school’s president or chief executive officer.

It bars employees and students from delegating their duty to report to another person.

Student leaders face expulsion or suspension for at least one year, while employees face a Class B misdemeanor and termination if they fail to report. If employees are found to have concealed reporting an assault, they face a Class A misdemeanor, up to $4,000 in fines and one year in state prison.

“I realize these reporting requirements may be the most stringent in the country, but it is time we changed the culture on college campuses,” Huffman said. “This is totally unacceptable and Texas must lead the way on this issue.”

The bill’s co-author, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was the lone dissenting vote. He unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to exempt students and employees from reporting if the victim asked them not to. He expressed worry the bill could have a chilling effect on victims talking about their assault if they feared the people they told would be held criminally responsible for not reporting.

Huffman opposed the amendment, saying it would “gut” her bill. She said she wanted to empower people to come forward.

Baylor faces several federal lawsuits filed by female students who claim their reports of sexual assault by football players were ignored or covered up by football coaches and school administrators. The school hired an external investigator, Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, which released a scathing report in May 2016 on how school officials bungled the reports. The scandal has claimed the jobs of former Baylor President Ken Starr, head football coach Art Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw.
Watson is a Baylor alumnus and maintains deep ties with the school.

“We have cultural problem on a lot of campuses, but there’s no question watching what was coming out of Baylor highlighted this for me,” Watson said. “I love Baylor University, a lot. But I have been extra disappointed and very sad about all that has gone on, and frankly, in the efforts that Baylor has made, or not made, to restore confidence.”

The nearby University of Texas released results of a student survey last month in which approximately 15 percent of female undergraduates said they had been raped. Almost 30 percent said they were subjected to unwanted touching.

Texas Rangers Will Investigate Baylor Rape Scandal

March 3, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – Baylor University’s former head football coach Art Briles on Thursday denied that he participated in a cover-up, the day after a state lawmaker confirmed that the Texas Rangers will investigate the school’s persistent rape scandal.

Briles said in a statement that he “did not obstruct justice on campus or off.”

“Let me be clear, I did not cover up sexual violence,” he said. “I had no contact with anyone that claimed to be a victim of sexual or domestic assault. Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence but never at the sacrifice of safety for anyone.”

Briles said he could no longer stay silent “despite the insistence of certain people,” alluding to damning allegations that Baylor regents made in February when they answered a defamation lawsuit filed by fired director of football operations Colin Shillinglaw.

In his lawsuit in Dallas County Court, Shillinglaw claims school officials and Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton law firm, hired to investigate the school’s handling of rape claims, defamed him in the fallout of the investigation.

The regents fired back within days, saying Shillinglaw was “integrally involved” with player discipline in a football program that “became a black hole.” They accused Briles of personally intervening in the suspension of Tevin Elliott, who was convicted of sexual assault. They disclosed text messages, allegedly of Briles reacting to Elliott “admit[ting] he lied” about not knowing a girl he was accused of assaulting.

The regents claim a female student-athlete’s coach reported to former athletic director Ian McCaw and Briles allegations of a gang rape involving five football players in April 2013.

“Those are some bad dudes,” Briles told the coach, the regents said. “Why was she around those guys?”

Briles denounced the “rumor, innuendo and out-of-context messages, emails and comments” as having “no place in a true fact-finding mission.”

“The key to growth for the school begins with full transparency, not selective messaging,” Briles said. “To participate or, worse yet, instigate such is unfair to the victims, the accused, the programs and all of Baylor nation. I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclosure rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”

Briles’ attorney, Ernest Cannon, of Stephenville, said Wednesday that his client would speak to the media if he could.

“Art has not spoken because of agreements with Baylor on the subject of confidentiality, but he felt like it was time to express his gratitude to the university and the students and the fans and people in Waco and tell them how he felt and how he felt about them,” Cannon told the Waco-Tribune Herald.

The scandal has claimed the jobs of Briles, former athletic director Ian McCaw and former school president Ken Starr.

Briles’ statement came two days after state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, demanded that the Texas Rangers investigate whether Baylor police or administrators obstructed justice.

In filing House Resolution 664, Gutierrez cited the school’s admission that more than 34 football players assaulted more than 52 women over the course of five years. He asked Gov. Greg Abbott to order the Rangers to investigate.

“The level of cover-up that has been both reported and also admitted at this point is appalling,” the resolution states. “Widespread evidence of obstruction of justice has come out over the last several months. We have learned examples of how Baylor University officials ‘failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence.’”

Speaking Wednesday on the ESPN podcast “Capital Games,” Gutierrez confirmed that the Rangers have launched an investigation. He criticized Baylor’s leaders for “wholesale failure” in failing their students, particularly the victims who allegedly were “shamed and coerced” by school officials.

“It is nice to know that people are listening,” Gutierrez said. “They went off and had some preliminary investigations, made some phone calls within the Waco community and felt there was enough – just on the surface admissions made in the Pepper Hamilton report – to go forward. I am very proud that our elite team of investigators have seen that there is a need to go in there.”

From Courthouse News.

Baylor Regents Say Football Staff Covered Up Scandal

February 3, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – Baylor University regents fired back at a former athletic official’s defamation lawsuit Thursday, making damning allegations that former head football coach Art Briles and his staff failed to report several rape allegations against players and actively shielded them from school discipline.

Regents Cary Gray, Ron Murff and David Harper filed a 54-page answer on Thursday, two days after they were sued by fired director of football operations Colin Shillinglaw in Dallas County District Court.

Shillinglaw sued the regents, Baylor, interim President Dr. David E. Garland, several school administrators and the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, disputing public statements regents made to the press blaming the team’s administrators for the school’s ongoing rape scandal.

Shillinglaw claims he was defamed by association when the football program’s reputation was damaged when Pepper Hamilton’s external investigation of the rape allegations were revealed in May 2016.

The regents say Shillinglaw was “integrally involved with player discipline in a football program that became a black hole,” alleging failures to report to school administrators accusations against players involving “drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud.”

“Briles, Shillinglaw, and others set up a structure within football that often insulated Briles from knowing about misconduct,” their filing states. “In those circumstances when information about acts of misconduct bubbled its way up to him, Briles encouraged Shillinglaw and others on his staff to keep the problems internal to the program and not alert other campus authorities.  For example, when confronted with allegations of a gang rape against some of his players, Briles made no real attempt to determine if his players were responsible, to report them to authorities outside the Athletics Department or to make sure his players were punished, if warranted.”

The regents say a female student-athlete’s coach reported to former athletic director Ian McCaw and Briles allegations of a gang rape involving five football players in April 2013.

“Those are some bad dudes,” Briles told the coach, the regents say. “Why was she around those guys?”

According to the regents, Briles offered no defense of his players and told the coach the victim should tell police and prosecute. They say McCaw told the coach it was up to the victim to take action against the men, that there was nothing they could do if she did not press charges.

The regents say Briles “personally took up” the suspension appeal of Tevin Elliott, who was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison for two counts of sexual assault. They claim Briles told then-president Ken Starr on June 11, 2011, that Elliott wanted to appeal the school’s suspension – two months after the appeal deadline had passed.

According to the regents’ filing, Starr overturned the suspension, ignoring the decision of the provost, and placed the athletics department in charge of his probationary watch and not judicial affairs. They claim this created a different standard for athletes than other students, as Elliott allegedly had attendance problems and was caught cheating on quizzes, among other things.

“This violated President Starr’s probation orders and Elliott’s academic plan,” the answer states. “But two top athletics officials shrugged it off. ‘Wow, what is this kid thinking?’ an athletics department official wrote on Oct. 21, 2011 to his boss, [former athletic director] Ian McCaw. ‘Unbelievable!” McCaw replied. The athletics department’s unwillingness to crack down enabled Elliott to stay at Baylor and play football.”

The regents say that after a fifth assault complaint was filed against Elliott in April 2012, Briles was allegedly told by an assistant that Elliott “admitted he lied” about not knowing the girl when first confronted and said he stopped having sex with her when she said stop.

“Wow – not good – I’ll call you later,” Briles texted, the regents claim. They say he responded “dang it” when told that Waco police had swabbed Elliot’s mouth and the player went to see a lawyer.

The regents claim Briles did not notify school officials or take any action for 10 days, until a Waco Tribune-Herald reporter asked about Elliott’s status and if he had been suspended.

The regents say that when Elliott asked Briles to testify on his behalf, Briles texted, “We need to get your name cleared … Always all in with my players.” Briles did not appear in court.

Thursday’s court filing says Pepper Hamilton reported that after a freshman defensive tackle was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol on April 8, 2011, Briles texted an assistant, “Hopefully he’s under radar enough they won’t recognize [his] name – did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco? … Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks.”

The regents claim Briles and his staff did not report another player being accused of brandishing a gun at a female student on Feb.11, 2013. They also say he failed to report to school officials that a player had been caught selling drugs, texting on May 14, 2014, “I’m hoping it will take care of itself – if not we can discuss best way to move on it.”

As a result of Pepper Hamilton’s findings, Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned as well.

Shillinglaw’s attorney, Gaines West with West Webb in College Station, said the regent’s filing is “very unorthodox.”

“It’s really hard to discern just what it is these defendants assert,” West said in a statement Friday. “We are anxious for the complete truth to come out, instead of just a bunch of disconnected accusations.”

From Courthouse News.

Fallout From Baylor Rape Scandal Intensifies

February 2, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – Baylor University’s former director of football operations sued the school and the Pepper Hamilton law firm Tuesday, claiming he was fired during the school’s rape scandal due to false statements by a school administrator.

Colin Shillinglaw sued Baylor, interim President Dr. David E. Garland, several school administrators, the Board of Regents and Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton in Dallas County Court.

He claims defendant Regan Ramsower, the head of Baylor’s Department of Public Safety, gave “false and defamatory statements” to Pepper Hamilton during its independent investigation into numerous rape claims against Baylor football players, resulting in Shillinglaw’s suspension with intent to terminate on May 26, 2016.

“It was made clear that Mr. Shillinglaw’s suspension was the result of defendant Ramsower’s defamatory statements and Pepper Hamilton’s defamatory statements,” the 12-page complaint states. “Neither defendant Ramsower nor Pepper Hamilton have retracted the defamatory statements.”

Baylor regents ordered the investigation in 2015 as the rape accusations mounted. In a federal lawsuit last Friday, a woman claims Baylor football players committed at least 52 rapes from 2011 to 2014, “including five gang rapes, by not less than 31 different football players.”

That plaintiff, who says she was raped by two Baylor football players, claimed Baylor football recruiters used sex to sell the school to prospects. “In order to ensure that a last place team could recruit the players needed to win football games, recruiting efforts used sex to sell the program,” Jane Doe said in her lawsuit.

The regents announced the results of the Pepper Hamilton investigation in May 2016. Baylor said the law firm found “specific failings with both the football program and athletics department leadership,” including that they failed to respond to one football player’s “pattern of sexual violence” and dating violence.

Shillinglaw claims Baylor refused to give him an explicit explanation for why he was fired “other than the vague references” to the Pepper Hamilton report. He says the defendants defamed him, that defendant-and regent J. Cary Gray told the press: “There was a cultural issue that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values,” directly placing the blame on the plaintiff and the team’s administrators.

“The goal of the Baylor regents’ narrative was clearly to show that the leadership in the football program was the issue,” the complaint states. “To reinforce this perception, the Baylor regents have constantly pointed to the termination of football personnel as their solution.”

Baylor said the lawsuit is without merit.

“We will defend the university aggressively,” spokesman Jason Cook said Wednesday. “We look forward to presenting our defense in a court of law.”

As a result of Pepper Hamilton’s findings, Ken Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Head football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. Athletic Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned as well.

Former Baylor athletics employee Tom Hill filed a similar lawsuit in December, claiming Pepper Hamilton failed to interview several key witnesses during its investigation and failed to act objectively.

Shillinglaw seeks actual and punitive damages for libel, slander, tortious interference, aiding, abetting and conspiracy. He is represented by Gaines West with West Webb in College Station.

From Courthouse News.

Baylor Employee Blames Law Firm for His Firing

December 20, 2016
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) — A former Baylor University athletics employee sued the Pepper Hamilton law firm, claiming he was fired as “collateral damage” after the firm’s nine-month investigation of school leaders’ bungled handling of reports of sexual assaults.

Tom Hill sued the Philadelphia-based law firm and its partners Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez in McLennan County Court on Dec. 13, alleging defamation and negligence.

Baylor’s Board of Regents ordered the external review last year as rape accusations mounted against football players. In May this year, the regents said the review revealed a “fundamental failure” to comply with Title IX.

The regents said Pepper Hamilton found “specific failings within both the football program and Athletics Department leadership,” including that they failed to respond to one football player’s “pattern of sexual violence” and dating violence.

“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” the Board of Regents said at the time.

As a result of the findings, Ken Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Head football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. Athletic Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned, as well.

Hill claims Pepper Hamilton failed to interview or interrogate several important witnesses during the investigation, and that it failed to perform its duties “objectively” or with “an open mind.”

“Defendants did not give an appropriate, accurate, complete, and unbiased report of all facts necessary for the university to properly understand the true nature of any potentially inappropriate culture or social environment at the university,” the 3-page complaint states. “As a direct result of the negligence of the defendants in carrying out their contractual obligations, serious collateral damage was done to several university employees, including plaintiff.”

He claims he was “slandered and libeled by [the] defendants.”

Hill worked at the athletics department for 28 years and says he was an “effective, loyal and crucially important” employee, with an “impeccable performance record.”

According to his profile, still on the Baylor Bears website, Hill worked as a graduate assistant, compliance director, assistant track coach and assistant athletic director.

Pepper Hamilton said in a statement that the lawsuit “has no merit” and that it “will vigorously defend” itself.

Hill is seeking actual damages of $60,000 in lost wages. He is represented by Don Riddle in Houston.

After facing harsh criticism for not releasing all of Pepper Hamilton’s findings or a final report, regents in November disclosed a report of “horrifying and painful” gang rapes allegedly committed by football players.

The gang rape report involved Trevon Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman, according to “60 Minutes Sports.” Neither football player has faced criminal charges. Armstead went on to play the 2014 season before being kicked off the team. Chatman later transferred to Sam Houston State University.

Only two Baylor football players have been convicted of sexual assault. Tevin Elliott was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison on each of two counts of sexual assault. Sam Ukwuashu was sentenced in August 2015 to 180 days in county jail, 10 years of probation and 400 hours of community service on one count of sexual assault.

From Courthouse News.