Archive for Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Attorney: Alleged Haskell rape victim settles with federal government in civil lawsuit

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

November 28, 2017

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The U.S. government has paid to settle a lawsuit by a former Haskell Indian Nations University student who said she was raped by two fellow students in a dorm in 2014, her attorney says.

The remaining portion of Jane Doe H versus Haskell et al was closed Tuesday, after the plaintiff and the federal government agreed to dismiss it with prejudice, according to court documents. Dismissal with prejudice means the same claims can’t be raised again.

As part of her agreement with the defendants, the woman received a settlement payment from the federal government, said Kansas City, Mo., based attorney Dan Curry, who represented her in the civil case. Curry declined to specify the amount of the payment.

“She is happy to have the case resolved,” Curry said. “She wants to get her education back on track, and this resolution will help her do that.”

The Journal-World was not immediately able to obtain the settlement amount through other sources.

A government attorney representing the defendants referred questions to U.S. District Court spokesman Jim Cross, who said he was unable to answer the question late Tuesday. A Haskell spokesman also declined to provide additional information or comment on the settlement, referring questions to a U.S. Bureau of Indian Education spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. She did not immediately respond to a message from the Journal-World.

With the civil suit and lengthy criminal proceedings against the men she said raped her now over, the woman plans to return to Haskell this spring, Curry said.

“Getting through the criminal process was something that she wanted to get behind her,” Curry said. “That was hard on her.”

The civil lawsuit — which began as a Title IX suit, though the bulk of it was dismissed this summer — had been pending more than a year.

In October 2016, the woman sued Haskell, the United States, the U.S. Department of Interior, the secretary of the Interior and three Haskell administrators, including President Venida Chenault. The lawsuit alleged that Haskell — in opposition to Title IX — allowed an unsafe environment by failing to enforce alcohol and curfew policies, treated her unfairly and retaliated against her after she reported the rapes to school and law enforcement authorities.

Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual violence. However, Judge Thomas Marten ruled in July that Title IX doesn't apply to Haskell — a federal school run by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education — the same way it does to other universities, and dismissed the Jane Doe H lawsuit.

At that time, the judge did allow the woman to add a Privacy Act claim against the federal government, which was the only piece of the suit remaining at the time of the settlement and dismissal this week.

The woman argued in the amended lawsuit that Haskell employees unlawfully released her private records to people outside the school during criminal court proceedings. The government rejected the claims, in a response filed in late August.

After the woman reported that the two men raped her in their dorm room on Nov. 15, 2014, both men were expelled from Haskell.

Both also were charged in Douglas County District Court with rape and aggravated criminal sodomy.

After two trials for defendant Galen Satoe ended in hung juries, the DA’s office said in May that prosecutors would not pursue a third trial.

A trial for Jared Wheeler also ended with a hung jury, in June 2016. In November 2016, Wheeler pleaded no contest to a single count of aggravated battery and was sentenced to two months in jail and two years of probation.

Contact public safety reporter Sara Shepherd
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