New lawsuit says KU mishandled investigation of football player accused of sexually assaulting two women
Man was expelled four months after women reported assaults to the university, suit says
photo by: Sara Shepherd
The same football player who sexually assaulted a Kansas University rower in fall 2014 also assaulted another rower the following year, a new lawsuit against KU alleges.
The civil suit accuses KU of failing to properly investigate the second assault, failing to protect the victim from subsequent intimidation by the football player and allowing her own coaches to retaliate against her after she reported it, in violation of federal Title IX law. The suit was filed Monday in Douglas County District Court.
It’s filed as Jane Doe 7 v. KU because the victim, who is still a student at KU, does not want to go public with her name, said the woman’s attorney, Dan Curry with Brown and Curry LLC of Kansas City, Mo.
“KU made me feel worthless,” the woman said in a written statement provided by her attorney. “After I reported my assault, everything KU did made me feel like they were trying to get me to crack and leave. My rowing team coaches didn’t care, didn’t help, and they did not protect me.”
The football player was expelled earlier this semester and a notation was to be added to his transcript, Curry said, citing information KU provided to his client.
The woman, who said she was assaulted in August and reported to KU in October, said that action took much too long.
“My assailant should have been kicked off the football team and out of the university immediately,” she said in her statement. “How many women need to be victimized before KU will take action?”
To protect the rights of all parties involved, KU will not comment on individual sexual assault investigations, KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said in an email response to the Journal-World on Tuesday.
“When the university receives a report of sexual assault, we quickly take action to support the person who came forward and work to investigate and resolve the matter,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Timeline of events
The football player sexually assaulted the woman in her room at Jayhawker Towers apartments, where he also lived, on Aug. 29, 2015, according to the lawsuit, less than a week in to the fall semester.
photo by: Sara Shepherd
The woman, in her first semester as a scholarship rower at KU, had met the football player earlier that month through a mutual friend on the football team, according to the suit. She “confided” the assault to a friend but did not immediately report it to university or law enforcement authorities.
In October, after a meeting with the rowing team’s sports psychologist, the woman reported the sexual assault to the KU Office of Public Safety, the lawsuit said.
That report, obtained by the Journal-World, lists the case as a sexual battery at Jayhawker Towers in the early morning hours of Aug. 29. The assailant was not suspected of using alcohol, drugs or a weapon, according to the report.
The report indicates the criminal case was “cleared” the day after the woman filed the report.
KU police Capt. James Anguiano said the report was forwarded to the District Attorney’s office for review and that the office declined prosecution. He said the suspect was not arrested.
The same day she made the police report, the woman learned that another female student had been sexually assaulted by the same football player, according to the lawsuit.
About a week later, the woman reported the assault to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, according to the suit.
Within a few days of the woman’s report to KU, the football player sent a Snapchat message to her “in an attempt to intimidate her,” the suit said.
Fear and anxiety persist, according to the suit.
“During the remainder of the school year, Plaintiff made a valiant effort to have a normal college experience, but she avoided ‘Late Night in the Phog’ and no longer went to football games or other sporting events for fear of seeing her assailant,” the suit said. “Plaintiff became hyper-vigilant on campus and worried about her safety. Plaintiff often feels anxious and nervous around the athletes, is easily tearful, sometimes paralyzed with fear and infuriated with anger. She has experienced flashbacks of the sexual assault.”
From January through mid-March, KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access “kept extending the time for the investigation,” the suit alleges. Even after receiving reports of on-campus intimidation, KU failed to suspend, ban from campus or issue a no-contact order against the man, the suit says.
In February the woman withdrew from the rowing team and KU canceled her athletic grant effective after this semester, according to the suit. Her attorney was notified in March that the football player had been expelled.
KU confirmed that the man, who is not named in the suit and whose name the Journal-World is not publishing, is no longer a student at KU. According to Barcomb-Peterson, he was enrolled from fall 2013 until earlier this semester.
He was removed from the 2016 football roster on the KU Athletics website last month, after playing the 2014 and 2015 seasons at KU.
He has no criminal charges in Douglas County.
Earlier accusation of rape
This is the third related suit to be filed against KU in the past six weeks.
On March 21, former KU student and rower Daisy Tackett sued KU in a similar Title IX lawsuit. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education and the law under which universities are required to investigate and take measures to prevent sexual assault on their campuses.
photo by: Sara Shepherd
Tackett, who withdrew from KU early this semester, said the same football player raped her in Jayhawker Towers in fall 2014, and that KU failed to properly investigate and protect her from retaliation by the player and rowing coaches.
On March 11, Tackett’s parents, James and Amanda Tackett, filed a separate suit against KU under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. That suit, which seeks class action status, accuses KU of misleading the public by representing campus housing as safe.
Curry’s firm is representing both women and Tackett’s parents.
Daisy Tackett also reported her rape to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access in October 2015, about a year after the incident occurred. She said she did so upon hearing that the same football player had assaulted another woman. Tackett did not file a police report.
In addition to criticizing KU’s investigations of their complaints, both women’s lawsuits also accuse rowing coaches of retaliating against them after their sexual assault reports to KU.
KU rowing coach Rob Catloth made “ongoing discriminatory remarks about some of the rowers and comments about the weight of the female athletes, calling some of the women ‘fat,'” the “Jane Doe 7” suit says.
Catloth told the woman that he would not allow her to attend an annual training trip to Florida in December, citing her attendance, although another rower who had missed more days of practice due to medical problems was going, according to the suit. Early this semester he began the process of medically disqualifying her from participating in sports, the lawsuit says.
“Jane Doe 7” is seeking actual damages of more than $75,000 in addition to attorney fees and disgorgement of tuition and board, according to the suit.
Her lawsuit also asks for actual damages for violations of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act — accusing KU of misrepresenting campus housing as safe — and compensation for harms she suffered as a result of disability discrimination, related to an unnamed illness. The lawsuit describes it as a “serious medical condition” that required special dietary restrictions and prevented her from participating in high impact training from time to time.
Jim Marchiony, associate athletics director for public affairs, declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit. Noting that athletes involved in sexual assault cases at KU are referred to the same office and process as other students, he referred questions to Barcomb-Peterson’s office.