WACO, Texas (CN) – A Texas federal judge on Thursday ordered the Pepper Hamilton law firm to hand over documents compiled during its sweeping investigation into the sexual assault cover-up scandal at Baylor University.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman rejected the Philadelphia-based law firm’s arguments that the document request was outside the jurisdiction of the court and would subject it to undue burden. He concluded that Pepper Hamilton waived its opportunity to raise the former issue when it failed to respond to an earlier motion to compel.
“Silence does not substitute for a responsive filing,” the four-page order states. “If Pepper Hamilton disputed the court’s jurisdiction, the firm could have filed a response or motion to quash, either in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania or before this court.”
Pitman gave the law firm until April 11 to give the plaintiffs – former students who say school officials did not appropriately investigate their sexual assaults by other students all records it compiled during its internal investigation launched by Baylor’s trustees in response to a high number of rapes alleged by female students, particularly those said to have been committed by football players.
The investigation concluded administrators “directly discouraged” women from reporting the assaults and in one case retaliated against a victim for reporting a rape. Several of the victims filed federal Title IX lawsuits against the school since the report, including the case in Thursday’s ruling.
School regents immediately demoted Baylor President Ken Starr after the report concluded. Starr – best known for his independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky – later resigned as chancellor “as a matter of conscience” and left his faculty position at Baylor’s law school.
Head football coach Art Briles was also suspended and fired. Athletic director Ian McCaw was placed on probation and resigned.
In a separate lawsuit, former student Jasmin Hernandez claimed she was told by school counselors that they were “too busy” to see her after she was raped by former football player Tevin Elliott. Elliott was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison on each of two counts of sexual assault.
In another lawsuit filed by fired former director of football operations Colin Shillinglaw in Dallas County District Court in 2017, Baylor regents accused Briles and his staff of failing to report several rape allegations against players and actively shielded them from school discipline.
Baylor officials declined to comment on the order Friday.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Dunnam said the records will
include Pepper Hamilton’s interviews with witnesses, email messages between
administrators and information from Waco
police, the Associated Press reported.
Dunnam said the order is a “monster step forward in revealing the truth of what happened.”
“This is the stuff that’s been hidden for three years that substantiates and gives the details behind the failures that were acknowledged by the regents,” he said.