University of Oregon sued over rape accusation involving athletes

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 09, 2015 6:55 PM

By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A University of Oregon student who says she was raped by three players on the school's basketball team has sued the university, saying officials had known one of the men was suspended from another college over sexual misconduct claims, lawyers said on Friday. 

The woman, still a student at the University of Oregon, filed the lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. federal court in Eugene, Oregon. She is seeking monetary damages that include payment of her tuition and compensation for emotional pain and suffering, among other things.

The students she accused of rape were dropped from the team in May and suspended from the school in June but were not criminally charged, the woman's attorney said. Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin were suspended amid a police investigation of accusations that they sexually assaulted a female student on March 8 at an off-campus party and other locations in Eugene.

Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner ultimately decided against filing charges against the players, citing a lack of evidence

"It is time for athletic departments to stop trading the safety of women on campus for points on a scoreboard," said Jennifer Middleton, an attorney for the plaintiff identified in the lawsuit only as "Jane Doe." 

The suit names University of Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman as a co-defendant. The suit says Altman and other staff at Oregon's flagship public university recruited Austin despite knowing he previously had been suspended from Providence College in Rhode Island for allegations of sexual misconduct in 2013.

It also accuses the school of delaying action against the basketball players until May. 

The university drew criticism for allowing Artis and Dotson to play in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments last spring while police investigated the allegations. 

Lawyers representing the University and Altman told Reuters in an emailed statement that the allegations in the lawsuit "lack merit."

"The University’s response to the plaintiff’s situation was caring, comprehensive, and complied fully with all laws and other obligations," Portland attorney Michelle Barton Smigel said.

Smigel would not comment beyond the statement because of the pending litigation.

Attorneys for Dotson and Artis and representatives at Providence College in Rhode Island could not be reached for comment. Austin’s attorney Laura Fine Moro told Reuters she had no comment. 

The attorneys for the basketball players denied the allegations in a written statement in June. 

University of Oregon Interim President Scott Coltrane, in a statement, said the lawsuit was unfortunate.

"The university disagrees with the allegations against it and believes that it acted in accordance with the law," he said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Will Dunham and Ken Wills)