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DA has no plans to prosecute UAB sex case



BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (CNN) -- An Alabama district attorney's office said Friday it has no immediate plans to prosecute anyone at a university after a family alleged their teen-age daughter became a sexual "plaything" for the school's athletes.

The parents of the girl, identified only as "Jane Doe," filed a $40 million lawsuit against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Thursday, accusing school officials, coaches and others of doing nothing to help their daughter "despite this knowledge of sexual exploitation."

The girl entered the university just before her 15th birthday as one of the youngest freshmen in Alabama history. Under Alabama law, statutory rape is defined as sex with someone 15 years old or younger.

Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber told CNN he had never heard "anything about the case until yesterday," when a reporter called about the suit.

Barber called it "strange" that a civil suit would be filed before any allegations had been brought to authorities' attention. He said a person has to file a police report for his office to seek prosecution in a case. Police then would investigate, and the district attorney's office would prosecute if the evidence warranted it.

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Parents of a University of Alabama-Birmingham student filed a sexual assault lawsuit against the school. Affiliate WBRC's Alan Collins reports (August 31)

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He said he was not aware of the family filing a police complaint. "I'm not aware of anything that's come to our attention," he said.

The university also maintains that a complaint was never filed, saying the suit is without merit -- nothing more "than a cynical attempt to extort money by slandering this institution and its employees."

"While these serious allegations of misconduct are claimed to have occurred almost a year ago, and over a 10-month period, other than recent demands issued through her lawyers, the plaintiff has never offered any complaint to the university, local medical services, police authorities or other related security forces, before filing this lawsuit," the university said in a statement.

Nevertheless, UAB has launched an investigation into the matter.

University President W. Ann Reynolds vowed that the school ultimately would win the civil case: "I am outraged by this spurious lawsuit, which we will fight and are determined to win."

The suit was filed on behalf of the girl in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Birmingham lawyer John Whitaker of Sadler & Sullivan.

"I didn't want to file this lawsuit," Whitaker told CNN on Thursday. "But all we got from the university was, 'Not our fault.' "

He said the university violated the girl's rights under Title IX, which says no person should be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

"Knowing that sexual harassment was going on, they in effect denied her her educational rights," Whitaker said.

UAB athletic director Herman Frazier said the allegations would prove to be false, and he questioned the timing of the lawsuit's filing. UAB kicked off its football season Thursday night.

"I find these charges to be outrageous; in the long run, they will prove to be unfounded," he said.

The suit names the university's board of trustees, five administrators, head football coach Watson Brown, the campus police chief and more than 20 student athletes, including the starting quarterback.

It seeks $20 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

According to the suit, the girl entered college just before her 15th birthday under guarantees from the university that she would receive special treatment and protection because of her age -- "that she would be 'watched' and that the university would provide for all additional care and protection needed for someone so young."

brown
UAB head football coach Watson Brown: "The charges leveled against me and my staff are completely false."  

"That is to say, they were told that the dormitories were a safe, protected environment in which 'Jane' could live," the suit said.

The girl's mother allegedly told Warren Hale, director of student housing, and Susan McKinnon, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management, that should any problems arise "they should call her and she would come to help 'Jane,' " the lawsuit says.

"Without these assurances, neither 'Jane' nor her parents would have accepted the scholarship offer to attend UAB. Likewise, UAB would have never had the public relations advantage of trumpeting the fact that they had the youngest college student in the state," the suit says.

The suit says the girl's first quarter was an academic success as she earned a 3.5 grade-point average during spring 2000.

But things spiraled out of control when she moved into Blazer Hall, a dormitory that houses many UAB football and basketball players, according to the suit.

During the summer of that year, she had her first sexual encounters with athletes, often after they gave her an alcoholic beverage, the suit says. It alleges university officials knew of the drinking, but "they did nothing to stop it."

"Thereafter, the drinking and sexual abuse in campus dormitories with (student athletes) increased at a mind-spinning rate, with none of the parental oversight promised by the university," the suit alleges.

"'Jane' essentially became known as the 'white, 15-year-old that would have sex with athletes.' "

The girl began drinking liquor and smoking marijuana, the suit says. It says she then turned to cocaine, ecstasy and LSD. The suit also alleges a university hospital employee began exchanging morphine with the girl for cocaine.

In fall 2000, the girl passed out after drinking numerous Crown Royal shots and had to be treated for alcohol poisoning, the suit says. Her parents were never notified, the suit alleges.

Her grades plummeted, the suit says, and she skipped classes for months and had a 1.9 GPA in her last quarter in school, in fall 2000. "No professor or teacher defendant ever notified her parents," the suit says.

The girl's mother learned of her daughter's problems just before Christmas break from a man who said he was a UAB policeman, according to the suit.

"For almost half a year, 'Jane' had been repeatedly sexually abused, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the first contact to her parents came as a result of a call initiated by 'Jane's' mother," the suit alleges.

The suit says the parents put the girl in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program over the Christmas break. She never returned to UAB.

"The university's actions and inaction culminated in the withdrawal of 'Jane' from school and an end to her dreams of completing her degree and beginning her career before reaching 19 years of age," the suit says.



Greta@LAW





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