JSU denies claims in sexual assault lawsuit

Pictured is the Calhoun County Court House located in Anniston. (Courtesy of Al Harris)Pictured is the Calhoun County Court House located in Anniston. (Courtesy of Al Harris)

Ashleigh Crouch, Correspondent

In October, a woman filed a lawsuit against JSU claiming that the university interfered with an investigation involving her alleged sexual assault by former JSU basketball player Marlon Hunter in 2017.

On Tuesday, November 26, the university denied these claims, as well as claims that the university failed to notify the mother of the assault victim in a timely manner, and that Hunter was not thoroughly investigated before being allowed to enroll in JSU. 

Hunter, who was suspended from the men’s basketball team at Western Kentucky later withdrew from the university amidst claims of sexual misconduct in March 2016. Just after Hunter left WKU, his former coach Ray Harper resigned and began working at JSU. 

The university’s response states that Harper disclosed why he resigned from WKU, and that it was unrelated to Hunter. The response also states that Harper denied knowledge of the cause of Hunter’s dismissal from WKU. 

JSU’s response to the October lawsuit also claims that the 2017 assault victim met with former Title IX coordinator Jai Ingraham after the incident, and the woman chose not to file a complaint of sexual assault against Hunter. 

The plaintiff in the lawsuit also claimed that university police officers were placed on administrative leave for complaining that university officials interfered with an investigation into claims of sexual assault against Hunter. Both Shawn Giddy, former police chief, and Carl Preuninger, a UPD investigator were placed on administrative leave in February 2018. Giddy was ultimately terminated, and Preuninger returned to his position with UPD in July 2018. 

Giddy filed a federal complaint claiming that the university unfairly retaliated against him because of the investigation. Both Giddy’s attorney and the plaintiff in the October lawsuit have claimed that university officials intervened with the investigation in order to have an October 2017 grand jury indictment against Hunter overturned before more legal action could be taken against him. 

JSU’s counsel, Sam Monk, released a statement on November 27. “It is the policy and practice of JSU to make no public statement about ongoing litigation whether brought by or against it. No further comment will be forthcoming at this time.” 

The woman’s attorney, Roger Appell, declined to comment. JSU filed a motion to dismiss three of five counts of Title IX violations alleged by this lawsuit, including negligent hiring, negligent failure to supervise, and negligent failure to train, claiming that the suit does not identify any acts of wrongdoing on the part of JSU employees.

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