Lawsuit alleges JSU covered up 2017 sexual assault

Ashleigh Crouch, News Correspondent

On October 3, 2019, a former member of the Fast Start Academy at Jacksonville State University filed a lawsuit against JSU alleging the university violated Title IX, was negligent in supervision and was negligent in training and hiring.

According to the official complaint for damages, the plaintiff was allegedly sexually assaulted on campus in Logan Hall on July 22, 2017 by Marlon Hunter, who was a member of JSU’s basketball team at the time. At the time, the plaintiff was 17 years old and living on campus over the summer to participate in JSU’s Fast Start Academy. Several females enrolled in the program resided in Logan Hall, along with male varsity basketball players, who were participating in summer training.

According to the plaintiff’s statement in the lawsuit, Hunter forced himself onto the victim after a night of drinking. The court document then states that Hunter carried the victim into his room and sexually assaulted her after verbally assaulting her in the parking lot of Logan Hall and kissing her against verbal and physical protest in the hallway of the dorm. The lawsuit further claims the victim finally got away after having been sexually assaulted and battered when her friends heard her protests and forced themselves into Hunter’s room.

The victim’s mother said a court official told her that an indictment had been given to Hunter after an October 2017 hearing, but that it was later rescinded. She claims that JSU intervened to have the indictment overturned.

The lawsuit also states that Hunter has a history of sexual assault and was expelled from Western Kentucky University “stemming out of an incident involving sexual misconduct.” The same day that Hunter was suspended from the university’s basketball team, then-head coach Ray Harper resigned. The reasoning for his departure was never disclosed.

The lawsuit claims that university willfully and deliberately did not investigate the assault per Title IX, and in fact encouraged the victim not to pursue legal action. The university also allegedly violated the victim’s rights by not informing the victim’s mother of her assault for weeks after the initial incident.

Jai Ingraham, then the university’s Title IX coordinator, was placed on administrative leave the same day that the first police report of the alleged incident took place. A month later Ingraham resigned.

Former JSU police chief Shawn Giddy and police investigator Carl Preuninger also complained that JSU officials were interfering with the investigation, and both were put on leave after alleging the interference. Giddy was later terminated in July 2018 and Preuninger later returned to duty.

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