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LSU Faces Lawsuits from Within, Second Title IX Probe

Paul Steinbach

Sharon Lewis, Louisiana State University's associate athletic director of football recruiting, will file multiple lawsuits against her current employer, attorneys representing Lewis told CBS affiliate WAFB in Baton Rouge.

Lewis will file a $50 million Title IX Retaliation and Civil RICO action in federal court against the LSU Board of Supervisors; the university’s law firm, Taylor Porter; and other LSU dignitaries, including former LSU head football coach Les Miles, who is at the center of what Lewis claims is an LSU cover-up into its handling of sexual harassment claims against the coach.

“Members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, LSU Athletic Department, LSU Leadership and their law firm, Taylor Porter entered into a conspiracy to hide Les Miles’ sexual harassment investigation from federal officials and the public and to retaliate against Ms. Lewis," Tammye Brown, one of three attorneys representing Lewis said. "Over the last eight (8) years, Ms. Lewis has stood up to to protect LSU female student workers and as a result has suffered unimaginable retaliation sanctioned by the LSU Board of Supervisors.”

Lewis’ attorneys claim a memorandum written by Taylor Porter on May 15, 2013, documents LSU and Taylor Porter conspiring to cover up Miles’ alleged sexual harassment and Title IX investigations in violation of federal and state civil RICO statutes. Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

The university hired another law firm, Husch Blackwell, to review the handling of harassment complaints made by student athletic department employees.

Related: Report: LSU Report on Les Miles Leaves Widespread Wake

“The Husch Blackwell Report documented how LSU orchestrated a retaliation against Ms. Lewis, including the mental breakdown and ongoing mental trauma she suffered as a result," her attorneys stated. "Once LSU could not hush Ms. Lewis, they laid the groundwork for perpetual retaliation and hostility to render her embarrassed, isolated and invisible.”

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated, citing documents first obtained by USA Today, reported that the U.S. Department of Education announced it is launching a second investigation into LSU's reported mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. The federal agency's Office for Civil Rights notified LSU of the Title IX compliance investigation in a letter dated March 31.

The department will be analyzing LSU's handling of student complaints of sexual assault and harassment from the 2018-2019 academic year to the present. This is the second investigation from the federal agency since February, when the Department of Education notified the university it would be conducting a far-reaching probe of LSU's compliance with federal campus safety laws.

"There has been extensive media coverage of the university’s potential mishandling of complaints of sexual assault, including allegations that university officials ignored sexual assault allegations made against former athletes," a Department of Education spokesperson said, according to SI, citing Baton Rouge's ABC affiliate WBRZ.

WBRZ further reported that current LSU football coach Ed Orgeron and athletic director Scott Woodward have no intent of appearing before state legislators Thursday to answer questions about how the university, specifically the athletics department, failed to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Both Orgeron and Woodward have submitted written responses.

Woodward was expected to testify at the last hearing, on March 26, but didn't because other discussions and testimonies went on for about seven hours, WBRZ reported. Woodward told the Senate committee at the time that he would come back for the next hearing, but has since opted out of an in-person appearance.

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