Baylor sued over handling of Nov. 2017 incident

A former Baylor equestrian athlete has filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that its Title IX investigators took too long and did a poor job handling her reported assault, causing her mental distress and prompting her to withdraw from the school.

In the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Waco, Texas, the woman alleges that two football players sexually assaulted her and one of her friends while they were incapacitated by alcohol on the evening of Nov. 11, 2017, and that another football player videotaped the encounter and posted one or more videos on a "freshman football Snapchat group."

The lawsuit states that the university took an unreasonably long time to investigate after it was first notified Nov. 16, 2017, that investigators treated the woman in a "shaming, embarrassing, and hostile manner," and that she was not protected from her alleged attackers while on campus.

The lawsuit states that the woman was notified on Oct. 18, 2018, that investigators had found one of the football players named in her assault responsible and he was expelled, but the other was found not to have violated any sexual misconduct policies, according to the lawsuit. But according to a statement from Baylor, "all of the respondents were found responsible for one or more of the allegations against them, and none are enrolled at Baylor any longer."

The incident also had been reported to police. The McLennan County district attorney's office decided to present information about two of the players -- redshirt freshmen John Arthur and Tre'Von Lewis -- to a grand jury, which in June 2018 declined to indict them in connection with the assault.

Baylor head football coach Matt Rhule announced in March 2018 that Arthur and Lewis had been suspended from the program. Neither was on the Bears roster that fall.

In its statement, Baylor noted that on the same day athletics officials learned about the incident, they reported it to the Title IX office, they suspended the players from all team activities "within 36 hours of the incident report," and the school established interim measures during the investigation "to limit contact among the involved parties as reasonably as possible."

As to the time taken to investigate, the statement from Baylor noted that this was a "complex case" involving three students who filed complaints, four students who were accused of misconduct, and "multiple allegations by each of the three complainants against each of the respondents."

The lawsuit states that the woman felt as though one of the investigators "questioned her harshly and confusingly, in the manner of a police interrogation." And she stated that the school violated her privacy when investigators shared the video with people they interviewed and when they "unnecessarily questioned 39 people," which included some of the woman's friends who did not know about the assault prior to being questioned, the lawsuit states.

Baylor's statement acknowledged that "more than 30" people were interviewed as part of the investigation, but defended its process.

"From the initial report to the final adjudication, Baylor's Title IX policies and procedures were followed in how the incident was reported, investigated and ultimately adjudicated," its statement said.

According to the lawsuit, the player who videotaped the alleged assault was found responsible and banned from campus. And it stated that investigators also found one of the woman's teammates responsible for violating school policy after they determined she had shared the video with other students and had discouraged the woman from reporting the assaults, reportedly telling the woman that her name "would be publicized nationwide and Baylor football would 'receive the death penalty.'"

Baylor has been under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault reports for the past few years in light of an investigation that led to the firing of head football coach Art Briles in 2016 and the suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw and demotion of president Kenneth Starr, both of whom left Baylor soon after. The university has been the subject of multiple Title IX lawsuits and remains under investigation by the NCAA and U.S. Department of Education.