New Baylor lawsuit alleges culture in which drugs, alcohol and sex were encouraged

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A lawsuit filed against Baylor University by a former female student on Friday alleges that the football program fostered a culture in which alcohol and illegal drugs were provided to recruits, and that coaches encouraged female students in the Baylor Bruins hostess program to have sex with recruits and players.

The Title IX lawsuit, filed by a former member of the Bruins, is the second such lawsuit filed against Baylor this week. It is the sixth federal lawsuit Baylor faces in the wake of an investigation that revealed the university failed to properly respond to and address allegations of sexual assault committed by students, including football players.

The scandal led to the firing of former football coach Art Briles, the sanctioning and resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw, and the demotion and departure of president and chancellor Ken Starr.

The plaintiff's attorney, John Clune, of Boulder, Colorado, said his firm's investigation uncovered at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang rapes, by no fewer than 31 Baylor football players from 2011 to 2014. That is a significantly larger number of alleged rapes than what was revealed in Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton's investigation into how Baylor responded to allegations of sexual assault, the findings of which were released in May.

Baylor has acknowledged 17 reports of sexual and physical attacks involving 19 players from 2011 to fall 2016.

The lawsuit filed Friday involves a woman who reported to police that Bears football player Tre'Von Armstead and former practice squad player Myke Chatman sexually assaulted her at her apartment on April 18, 2013. The lawsuit also alleges that Chatman was previously accused of raping a student athletic trainer.

Although the alleged incident involving Chatman, Armstead and the woman has been reported before, the lawsuit included new allegations against the Baylor football program in general, describing a culture of drinking, drugs and sex allegedly encouraged by the coaching staff.

"From 2009-15, Baylor football players were responsible for numerous crimes involving violent physical assault, armed robbery, burglary, drugs, guns, and, notably, the most widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women ever reported in a collegiate athletic program," the lawsuit says. "Baylor football under Briles had run wild, in more ways than one, and Baylor was doing nothing to stop it."

Baylor interim President David E. Garland released a statement Friday regarding the lawsuit but did not address the specific allegations.

"Our hearts go out to any victims of sexual assault. Any assault involving members of our campus community is reprehensible and inexcusable," he said. "Baylor University has taken unprecedented actions that have been well-documented in response to the issue of past and alleged sexual assaults involving our campus community. We have made great progress in implementing 105 recommendations to strengthen the safety and security of all students and restore faith in the University, in addition to searching for a new president and the hiring of athletic director Mack Rhoades and head football coach Matt Rhule who reflect the highest levels of character and integrity. Baylor has made a strong commitment to a values-driven culture in accordance with our Christian mission."

Briles' attorney, Ernest Cannon, denied the program culture described in the lawsuit.

"If they were doing that it would be terrible, but they weren't doing that. Art wasn't involved in anything like that," Cannon said, according to The Associated Press. "Lawyers have great imaginations when money is involved. It's really sad."

According to Baylor officials, the Baylor Bruins were discontinued in the spring of 2016 and were replaced by a team of coed students, who offer campus tours to all visitors, not just student-athletes, under the guidance of the undergraduate admissions department.

A former Baylor assistant football coach, who spoke to ESPN's Outside the Lines on the condition that his name not be used, disputed every allegation about providing alcohol, drugs or access to strip clubs to recruits, and he said the coaches had no such involvement with the Baylor Bruins and certainly weren't arranging for them to have sex with players.

"There's no way. There is no damn way," he said. "Where's that come from? How does that ever get dreamt up? What makes someone put that together for a lawsuit? It's just unbelievable."

Clune and attorneys Chris Ford, of Boulder, and William Johnston, of Austin, Texas, filed the suit on Friday on behalf of the woman.

Clune previously reached financial settlements with Baylor for three women who said Bears football players sexually assaulted them. Two of those women said they were gang raped by multiple players in 2012; the other woman is the soccer player who was raped by football player Sam Ukwuachu in 2013. He was convicted and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years' probation.

"We have been working with Baylor on these football cases since the start of this, and though we have appreciated their efforts to fix the problems, this is one that needed to be filed," Clune said Friday. "As hard as the events at Baylor have been for people to hear, what went on there was much worse than has been reported. We do still appreciate the progress that Baylor has made and know that the school will be a better place when this case is over."

The lawsuit states that former assistant coach Kendal Briles, son of the former head coach, told a recruit from Dallas, "Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players." Kendal Briles, who was recently hired to join Lane Kiffin's staff at Florida Atlantic, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit alleges that the Baylor Bruins program was officially marketed as a means to use students to escort recruits and their families to campus events and football games while visiting the Waco, Texas, campus and had an official policy of "no sexual contact" with the recruits. Unofficially, the lawsuit states, the Bruins were "expected to make sure the recruits have a good time" by attending parties with them and in some cases engaging in sexual acts.

The suit claims that Baylor coaches sent two women from the Baylor Bruins program to hotel rooms to have sex with a player and a recruit. The suit also says that on more than one occasion, a "Baylor Bruins hostess was impregnated by a member of the football team."

"In essence, the implied promise of sex during the recruiting stage often became the reality," the lawsuit states, "and Baylor's recruiting policies and practices, along with the Baylor Bruin football hostess program, directly contributed to the creation of a culture of sexual violence that permeated Baylor," and led to the woman's assault.

The former assistant coach told Outside the Lines that the Baylor Bruins actually had very little involvement with the recruits beyond the official visits and on game days, and that coaches never got involved with what the recruits and the current players who served as their hosts did in the evenings.

"There isn't any truth to that, just like there's no truth to us covering up sexual assaults," he said. "It's all in the same boat. I just don't get it. ... I want to know who the hell that's coming from. ... What I don't get is how they can just say that."

He said there was no culture of rape or sexual assault within the football program, and no coaches ever attempted to cover up any woman's allegation.

Susu Taylor, a former member of the Baylor Bruins, said she never experienced any of that type of behavior, although she was in the group only during the 2015-16 season.

"Everything was extremely professional. ... Every time we did have a meeting, we were reminded of the rules," she said. "If we were caught, it was a huge compliance violation."

Taylor said she had "zero personal contact" with the coaches and that the Bruins interacted only with their immediate program supervisor. She said members of the Bruins were not allowed to party with recruits or even interact with them on social media, noting that she blocked recruits at least five times from following her on Instagram.

"We even had a uniform," she said. "They were not trying to portray us in any way, shape or form as sexual objects."

Another former Baylor Bruin, who said she was in the group of about 30 members in the spring of 2013 -- the time of the alleged assault -- said she did not believe the allegations about coaches asking Bruins to have sex with recruits and said it wasn't the type of behavior she ever witnessed.

"We had a meeting at the beginning of every season educating the ladies in our organization about keeping their distance from the players and recruits outside of football games," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. "We strongly encouraged the ladies also to not get into relationships with current players because of the reputation that it could possibly give us as a whole."

The lawsuit filed Friday quotes heavily from the investigation done by Pepper Hamilton, which in a summary released in May stated that Baylor did not address "cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players."

The Pepper Hamilton summary also stated that coaches were inappropriately involved in disciplinary and criminal matters or "engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules," and did more to hinder, not help, women who made allegations of assault or domestic violence.

The lawsuit states that "in one such football case, the victim reported both sexual and dating violence to Baylor hoping for assistance with academic accommodation. The school's Title IX office advised her of the potential for investigation. The young woman refused, explaining that she would get killed and so would the Title IX coordinator."

Just last week, former Title IX investigator Gabrielle Lyons, who filed a complaint against Baylor with the U.S. Department of Education in April, spoke out about her experience there, specifically involving cases with football players, and said she was made to feel unsafe when investigating alleged perpetrators because she was told they had a "potential for violence."

The former assistant coach told Outside the Lines that he couldn't think of a single player who would ever retaliate in such a way, saying, "Absolutely not," when asked whether that was ever a concern.

The specific incident at issue in the lawsuit allegedly occurred during the school's annual Diadeloso celebration in April 2013, although it wasn't investigated by the university until the fall of 2015 when the woman -- who had since graduated and left Waco -- filed a formal Title IX complaint with Baylor.

Although the incident was reported to Baylor police at the time and the woman said she was told that someone from the university would follow up with her, no one contacted her while she was still a student there, according to the suit.

"As Baylor continued to fail to address acts of sexual violence, the football players became increasingly emboldened, knowing that they could break the law, code of conduct, and general standards of human decency with no repercussions," the suit says. "This attitude, in turn, fueled the widespread violence within the program and spurred on the football players to gang rape Ms. Doe and others."

Armstead, who by then was an All-Big 12 tight end, was removed from the team in September 2015 during the investigation and expelled the following February after the Title IX office found him responsible for sexually assaulting the woman. His appeal was denied.

Chatman had since left Baylor and transferred to Sam Houston State, where he played linebacker for three seasons from 2014 to 2016. The lawsuit states that the Baylor athletic department was aware of the athletic trainer's prior allegation of rape, although it doesn't state when that allegedly occurred, and it states that Baylor "reached an agreement with the victim to pay for her education in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement" and changed her assignment to a women's team.

The lawsuit states that situation is referenced in the Pepper Hamilton summary, in which it says, "in response to concerns about misconduct by football players that could contribute to a hostile environment, an academic program that required interaction with the football program improperly restricted educational opportunities for students, rather than take steps to eliminate a potential hostile environment."

Armstead, through his mother and attorney, had declined previous interview requests by Outside the Lines but has maintained that he never had sex with the woman referenced in the lawsuit. However, Chatman told Baylor Title IX investigators that the two did have sex with her.

The woman told Outside the Lines previously that Chatman went to her house the next day to talk to her about what had happened, during which he mentioned the incident involving the athletic trainer; she said Chatman said it was consensual. Chatman has not responded to previous requests for an interview, and a family member reached Friday declined to comment.

Waco police responded to the woman's house on the night she was allegedly assaulted by Armstead and Chatman, after her roommate and roommate's boyfriend called 911 upon hearing loud noises, shouts and seeing other signs of what they believed to be distress as the two men left the woman's room and exited the house.

The woman, who maintains she was severely intoxicated at the time to the point where she has little memory of the evening, told police officers that nothing had happened. A few days later, and after a conversation with Chatman and a conversation with her roommate about what she observed, the woman changed her mind, believing that she had been raped and wanted to report it. But when police could not retrieve certain text messages from her phone from Chatman that she believed would support her claim, she decided not to pursue a criminal case at the time.

The police report indicates that Waco police contacted Baylor police about the assault, and it's unclear what happened next. Baylor administrators have said in prior media interviews that they never received a report and the allegation never reached judicial affairs at the time, which was handling sexual assault complaints before the university had its separate Title IX office in 2014.

In the fall of 2015, the woman, upon hearing about Baylor and its efforts to address sexual assault, decided to report her alleged assault to the university, and a private firm that Baylor hired was able to retrieve the text messages from her phone that Waco police did not. That same time, in the fall of 2015, was the first time anyone in the football program was made aware of the woman's 2013 report, the former assistant coach told Outside the Lines.

Armstead never played another down for Baylor and never participated in another team function.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.