Alleged Title IX misconduct at University of Oregon; woman suing for alleged gang rape
(CNN) — A woman who alleges she was gang-raped by three University of Oregon men’s basketball players in March has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university and head men’s basketball coach Dana Altman.
The civil suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon.
According to the suit, the woman, a university student, alleges that three Oregon men’s basketball players cornered her in a bathroom in March and gang-raped her multiple times. Prosecutors did not file charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence.
The lawsuit says that Altman knew one of his players, Brandon Austin, had a history of prior sexual misconduct allegations at another school but that Altman recruited him to play for the Ducks anyway. Austin and two of his Ducks’ teammates were dismissed from the team in May. The teammates are not mentioned by name in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that Oregon took no action until May, when it initiated procedures against Austin and his two teammates. Title IX requires schools to investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if criminal charges are never filed.
“This is a very important case that needs to be litigated,” said John Clune, an attorney for the woman. “It is time for athletic departments to stop trading the safety of women on campus for points on a scoreboard. The University of Oregon community deserves better, and we hope this case will help in that effort.”
In an email to campus Thursday that also posted online, University of Oregon interim President Scott Coltrane acknowledged the lawsuit and said the filing is not unexpected.
“The university disagrees with the allegations against it and believes that it acted in accordance with the law, including Title IX,” Coltrane said. “This litigation in no way undermines the university’s ongoing commitment to support the [student who says she was raped] inside and outside of the classroom.”
CNN’s attempts to reach Altman, Austin’s attorney and representatives from his current school have been unsuccessful.
In November 2013, before the start of his freshman season at Providence College, Austin and another player were suspended from the basketball team indefinitely over allegations of a reported gang-rape of another Providence student. He ultimately was suspended for the season. Austin sought to transfer to resume his basketball career, going to Oregon. Prosecutors declined to press charges in the case.
At the time, the Daily Emerald, student newspaper of the University of Oregon, reported that Laura Fine Moro, Austin’s attorney, said the lack of charges exonerated her client. “The accusers are cloaked in anonymity while the accused are plastered across the Internet. Even though my client is exonerated in the eyes of the law, justice was not served,” she said, the newspaper reported.
According to the lawsuit, Altman and other Oregon personnel knew about Austin’s background and basis for his seasonlong suspension.
“UO and Altman did not notify the UO students and community that UO and Altman had knowingly brought a reported sex offender to the UO campus in Eugene,” the lawsuit says.
The three Oregon players were dismissed from the team in May and were suspended from the university for four to 10 years. Austin found a new team and is playing at Northwest Florida State College. He has started every game this season so far, and he is averaging 15.9 points per game.
The filing of the lawsuit comes days before the Oregon football team will face Ohio State in the national championship game on Monday. It’s also the second Title IX lawsuit filed against a university this week.
On Wednesday, a woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012 filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court in Orlando against the university, alleging the school violated her rights under Title IX. Winston has said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors declined to press charges and a university investigation found he did not violate the school’s code of student conduct.