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Suit says TCU falsely depicted campus as safe

FORT WORTH -- Texas Christian University officials should have known that two athletic recruits accused of raping an art student had criminal histories and posed a threat on campus, according to a lawsuit the student filed against the university.

Courts have dismissed the lawsuit's other contentions, but on Thursday a judge will consider whether TCU officials committed fraud by depicting the campus as safe.

TCU has asked the court to dismiss that complaint as well. Should the court deny the school's motion, the trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Police said they were told that the woman who filed the lawsuit was drugged and then gang-raped by three athletes in 2006 while visiting a dormitory room in Moncrief Hall. The three were arrested and were permanently separated from the university.

But the district attorney's office decided not to pursue criminal charges against former defensive tackle Lorenzo Jones and former basketball players Shannon Behling and Virgil Allen Taylor after reviewing evidence and talking to the woman and her parents.

If more evidence surfaces, the case could be resubmitted to the grand jury, said Amy Collum, Tarrant County felony court chief. "I cannot get into any specifics about the case," she said.

Attorneys representing the woman in her lawsuit maintain that if TCU officials did not know, they should have known that Jones and Taylor had criminal histories and that Jones had had his probation revoked in connection with an assault causing bodily injury in a 2005 Collin County case.

Attorneys for the woman, identified as K.S. in the lawsuit, said it was telling that Jones failed to abide by the terms of that probation.

"They should have known that he [Jones] was a pit bull," attorney Kern Lewis said.

Lewis also said the woman's parents were told that the campus was safe and gave weight to the university's decision to retain the word Christian in its name. Their reasoning was that a school with Christian in its name would be less tolerant of students' illegal behavior, Lewis said.

TCU's motion for a summary judgment said there is no evidence that any university representative ever said the school checks the criminal histories or backgrounds of its athletic recruits. According to documents entered as evidence, TCU is in a low-crime area, but even so, there is no way university personnel could have protected the woman from crime, TCU attorneys argue.

To expect that would place too great a burden on university officials, they argue.

The attorneys declined to comment, but the school provided a statement: "As soon as the assault was reported, TCU notified authorities and then informed campus members and parents. Further, the University provided emotional support and assistance to the female student through its Victim's Advocate program, and took action by removing and ultimately permanently separating from TCU the students accused of the alleged assault."

Three athletes arrested

Behling, Taylor and Jones were arrested in October 2006 after the woman reported that Taylor sexually assaulted her. Police said that Taylor lured her to his dorm room on the pretext of repaying money he owed for a hamburger. There, the woman told police, she was given a drink that caused her to pass out.

The woman told police that she awoke briefly to find Taylor having sex with her. Police have said that Taylor told them the woman was unconscious during sex and that he implicated Behling.

Behling's statement to Fort Worth Detective C.B. Smith said that all three athletes had sex with the woman and that she was drunk to the point of unconsciousness at the time.

"When Lorenzo hopped off of [K.S.] ... she fell to the floor," according to Behling's statement. Attorneys for K.S. said Jones was admitted to TCU despite being unable to meet the school's educational requirements. The attorneys also said Jones and Taylor were a constant irritation for TCU administrators, staff and students.

Jones' English professor considered having him withdrawn from her class but agreed to a behavior contract with him after athletic and coaching staff members became involved, court documents show. An e-mail from the professor entered into evidence said that the teacher was unwilling to meet with Jones alone because she feared his reaction and that she was concerned about any undue influence that might be exerted by the university's coaching staff.

In her affidavit, the professor described Jones' behavior as disrespectful, stating that he cursed loudly, failed to turn in assigned work and made verbal outbursts intended to intimidate and demean her and other students.

The professor said that on the day she sent an e-mail to Jones informing him of her intention to withdraw him from her class, she called for a team of TCU personnel to be present outside her room because she considered him dangerous.

Lawyers for K.S. said the affidavit shows that the university knew of the potential threat. "They [the accused athletes] repeatedly violated rules, policies and the law and TCU did nothing about it," Susan Hutchison said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell,

817-390-7752

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