Pacific University administration, faculty, staff and students continue to reel as they deal with the developing $3 million rape lawsuit against the university.
The case, filed in Multnomah County Nov. 16, 2015, alleges that a now 20-year-old woman was raped after attending a drinking party hosted by a student assistant basketball coach in 2013. She is now suing the university for negligence.
The plaintiff is being represented by Gregory Kafoury, Mark McDougal and Jason Kafoury of Kafoury & McDougal law firm in Portland, Ore.
President Lesley Hallick said she first learned of the lawsuit via an email mid-morning Monday, Nov. 16. Later that day, the Forest Grove Leader published an article about the lawsuit, which was shared more than 20 times on Facebook by Pacific students. Hallick was officially served with lawsuit papers during a president’s cabinet meeting Nov. 17.
Since then, the lawsuit has been covered by several news outlets, including The Forest Grove News Times, OregonLive, KPTV and KOIN.
The suit claims the university displayed negligence on several occasions.
Kafoury explained the university was negligent by allowing an employee to hold a party where alcohol was being consumed by under aged students and by suggesting the defendant to be let off with a one-year suspension after the investigation closed.
According to an article published by the Oregonian Nov.16, Kafoury said the university expelled the student after the plaintiff threatened to go to the media with the story.
The alleged host of the party and assistant basketball coach, Dustin Bowser, was an assistant coach and still a student.
Kafoury said because the party was held almost exclusively as a benefit for athletes, Bowser was acting “within the scope of his employment” and a jury could find it work related.
Town Hall review
Hallick released a statement to students, faculty and staff announcing there would be a Town Hall meeting Nov. 23 and saying “[the administration] believes the university acted legally and appropriately in handling this matter and that the facts will show this to be the case.”
In her statement, Hallick said “the university does not support or authorize any of its employees or coaches to host parties in which alcohol is provided to minors, as was alleged in the lawsuit.”
Hallick and other university administrators, including Title IX coordinator Mark Ankeny and Dean of Students Will Perkins were restricted on what they could say at the Town Hall meeting. Hallick said because the case is still open and the university is in the “fact-finding” phase, she cannot speak on the specifics about the case. She hopes as time goes on, she will be able to share more.
The Town Hall, which was organized by Student Senate, filled the University Center lounge area, with over 70 attendees, including students, staff, faculty, reporters and community members. ACE Board streamed the meeting on boxerradio.fm for anyone who was unable to attend.
While they could not speak directly about the lawsuit, the administration used the opportunity to talk about the resources they offer students who have been sexually assaulted. Campus Wellness Coordinator Kathleen Converse spoke about the services the program offers the Pacific community.
“One thing I’ve learned is to never underestimate the importance of being present,” said Hallick. “Even though I could not say much, I’m thankful I got the opportunity to show students I care about the issue and their well-being.”
Athletic Director Ken Schumann said he could not comment on a pending litigation when asked about Bowser’s employment status.
In addition to an intensive multi-staged hiring process, said Schumann, all coaches receive a coach’s manual, which outlines university policies and procedures. He said the coach’s manual contains a section dealing with alcohol and strictly prohibits the consumption of alcohol in the presence of student- athletes.
While he could not comment on Bowser or the current case, Schumann said the health and safety of students are the athletic department’s top priority.
Bowser told the Oregonian he did not host the party and does not remember what he was doing that night but Kafoury said his client remembers Bowser there.
The official complaint states the Forest Grove and Cornelius police raided the party at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 17,2013andtheintoxicatedplaintiffleftwithamale football player to avoid contact with the police. It goes on to state “shortly after escorting plaintiff from the party, [the football player] sexually battered, abused and raped plaintiff.”
As a result of the alleged rape, the plaintiff sustained severe bruising on her breasts and thigh, which she documented with photo evidence. In the following February, she went to the university and Forest Grove Police Department to pursue
Kafoury said the football player had several complaints from other students and alleged rapes.
The police department and the plaintiff obtained written confession from a Facebook conversation that was included in a university investigative file:
WOMAN: “…What I want, what I need is for your (sic) to own what you did….Don’t tell me you didn’t know you were raping me”
MAN: “Okay well (sic) I am truly sorry for what I did. I know what happened and I instantly regretted it…. Please forgive me because I truly did mess up” WOMAN: “Can you promise me you won’t rape another girl?”
MAN: “I do promise you that because I completely regret it and I feel terrible. I know for sure that I won’t”
Police Captain Mike Herb said the case is still an open criminal case but stressed that his agency “has a clearly established track record of taking sexual assault cases very seriously and using every investigative means possible in obtaining evidence.”
The criminal case was sent to the District Attorney (D.A.) and the Forest Grove police department is waiting for the decision on whether or not the case will move forward to prosecution.
Detective Sergeant Matt Smith said the case was sent to the District Attorney while there was still a report in progress, which is very rare, but that all reports are now finished.
“We don’t normally send cases over before they’re finished but we knew the report would be finished in a matter of days,” Smith said.
Smith said one of the critical issues in some cases is when the police department starts hearing rumors about other victims without identifying information.
“The idea is to deliver the best possible product to the D.A. office while at the same time realizing if we play all of our cards up front and too quickly, we may lose an opportunity with potential other victims,” Smith said. “We only get one shot and that’s always what you are weighing as an investigator.”
Smith said he worked directly with the detective handling this case and saw how much it weighed on him.
The initials of the plaintiff and defendant are both available on the official complaint, which is public record in the Multnomah county courts. They were also published by The News Times Nov. 20.
Moving forward with the lawsuit, Kafoury said the firm will be obtaining records of the history of complaints against the university.
“We’re going to get every incident of sexual assault and lay them out for the world to see,” Kafoury said.
Private Investigator James Pitkin was speaking with students Nov. 22 about other alleged complaints against the football player and their thoughts on the case. Pitkin was hired by Kafoury & McDougal to investigate the case.
The family of the victim requests that anyone with information contact attorneys Jason and Greg Kafoury at (503) 224-2647.