Attorneys defending the University of Northern Iowa are heavily
scrutinizing the life of a former student who was sexually
assaulted by two football players in 2004 and is now accusing the
school in a civil lawsuit of mistreating her and mismanaging its
athletics department, court records show.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has been seeking details of
the woman’s history on social media sites like Facebook since 2003,
years of her cell phone records and personal photos and records
detailing her mental health treatment before and after the assault,
records show. In addition, the office has repeatedly asked for
records about her employment as a dancer at a strip club, a copy of
her personal journal, and documentation related to her father’s
mysterious death when she was a young child.
The woman was an 18-year-old freshman in November 2004 when she
reported that UNI player Baylen Laury had sex with her against her
wishes in a dorm room and then arranged for teammate Joseph R.
Thomas III to do the same. Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree
sexual abuse and testified against Laury, who claimed the sex was
consensual but later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault with
intent to inflict serious injury after three trials resulted in
hung juries. Both men, freshmen recruits from Texas, served prison
The woman filed a civil lawsuit in 2007 alleging that most
university administrators treated her with ”great animosity”
after the assault. She claimed they failed to make academic
accommodations she requested, declined to let her move to another
dormitory and did nothing when she reported receiving harassing
calls from players. After she quit school weeks later, the
university sent her tuition bill to a collection agency and the
dean of students told her she was disappointed ”she didn’t tough
it out,” according to the lawsuit.
The Associated Press is withholding the name of the 25-year-old
Davenport woman under its policy of not identifying sexual assault
The lawsuit seeks damages for the loss of her access to
education at UNI, pain and suffering and an order requiring the
school to reform policies on assault and harassment to rein in what
her attorneys call a culture where football recruits are more
likely to show violence toward women. UNI has broadly denied her
allegations in court documents.
A judge last week granted a joint request to delay the November
trial. No trial date has been set and attorneys reported they were
in settlement talks, although no deal appears imminent.
UNI spokesman Jim O’Connor referred questions about the case to
the Attorney General’s Office, which defends state agencies accused
Spokesman Geoff Greenwood defended the attempt to pore through
the woman’s personal life, saying plaintiffs must substantiate
their claims for monetary damages. He said the information
requested ”is pretty standard” in such cases and noted that a
judge ordered her in July to provide most of the records sought,
including her Facebook history.
”We’re not defending the people who did this. We’re defending
UNI and ultimately the state,” Greenwood said. ”We’re not blaming
the plaintiff. We’re gathering information about her claims against
UNI and her claims for damages.”
Greenwood said the woman has turned over partial information
about her medical, employment, educational and social history but
missed an Aug. 1 deadline set by the judge to provide additional
The woman’s attorneys say they have turned over all relevant
material and many of the additional records sought either do not
exist or are not in her possession. They claim some requests are
harassing, irrelevant and overly burdensome.
Her lead attorney, Pressley Henningsen, said he could not
comment on the specifics of each evidentiary dispute and
acknowledged filing a lawsuit can be an invasive undertaking. But
Henningsen said he’s been surprised by the state’s aggressive
stance given that no one disputes she was assaulted and the college
should have a strong incentive to fix problems related to campus
safety and athletics.
”It just furthers the hostile environment towards my client,”
he said. ”It appears as though they are taking a tactic that has
been shunned by pretty much every person on the topic for decades –
attack the victim – and I don’t understand why.”
”My client is resolute that what happened to her shouldn’t
happen again. Given the fact the university is taking the approach
they did nothing wrong, it’s clear they have a lesson to learn.
We’re going to proceed forward.”
Assistant Attorney General Joanne Moeller has argued in court
documents that the woman’s social media history is ”fair game”
and could show evidence about her activities since the assault. She
argued cell phone records are needed to shed light on claims that
she received harassing calls and that the assault damaged her
ability to interact socially and professionally. And she has
defended a longstanding request for personal photos as specific and
Moeller has requested hospital records related to a 2005
”cutting incident” and a 2007 suicide attempt and argued the
woman’s counseling records from before the assault ”would document
the plaintiff’s mental health prior to the event upon which the
petition is based.” Moeller also has repeatedly requested
documents relating to her employment from 2006 to 2008 as a dancer
at Amsterdam Gentleman’s Club, records Henningsen has said do not
But perhaps the most unusual request relates to the 1991 death
of the woman’s father, who she testified during a deposition went
missing and was found dead in his car in an area river. Moeller
says the state has been unable to substantiate that testimony and
has asked for ”all documentation” she has supporting the claim.
Her attorneys have called the details of her father’s death 20
years ago irrelevant to the case.
In a joint motion last week, both sides promised ”every good
faith effort” to resolve their disputes.
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