A young woman who alleges that two Tulane football players raped her last year has filed a lawsuit against the university and its head basketball coach, claiming the college failed to protect her from sexual assault on campus after a university-sponsored recruiting event gave way to a night of binge drinking.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, restates the allegations that prompted New Orleans police last spring to book Niguel “Teddy” Veal, a standout wide receiver, with simple rape. The criminal case was refused in August, just before the start of football season, by Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
The lawsuit reiterates the woman’s claims against Veal, whom she accused of raping her after she had fallen asleep in his dorm room following a long night of drinking. But according to investigative police reports obtained by The New Orleans Advocate, the lawsuit’s allegations differ in one significant way from the account the woman provided the authorities last year: The petition claims the woman was raped not only by Veal but also by his roommate, Green Wave center Raul “Junior” Diaz.
The woman told NOPD Detective Vernon Haynes she had consensual sex with Diaz in his dorm room and that she awakened later the same night to find Veal raping her, according to the NOPD’s investigative case file. The lawsuit, however, suggests the woman had been too intoxicated to consent to any sexual activity, saying Diaz made “repeated attempts to have sex” with her and that she rejected some of his advances.
Diaz has not been arrested or charged in the case. Joseph Raspanti, an attorney who represented Diaz during the investigation last year, vehemently denied the woman’s allegations.
“Neither (Diaz) nor Veal is anywhere remotely guilty of rape,” Raspanti said. “These allegations were false then — that’s why the DA didn’t accept them — and they’re equally false now.”
Veal’s attorney, Donald “Chick” Foret, also has been adamant, saying “there was not a rape that happened that night.”
“This young man was an honors student at West Jefferson High School,” Foret told reporters last year, predicting that Cannizzaro’s office would refuse the case against Veal. “He’s a fine young man.”
The woman is identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit. The Advocate confirmed her identity during an investigation of the case last year but does not publish the names of rape victims.
The Veal case has played out amid a growing national debate over the prevalence of rape at American colleges and questions about whether school administrators pursue allegations aggressively enough, particularly when they involve prized student athletes. Some of the cases that have generated the most outrage involve athletes — the New York Times, for instance, published a major story last year that highlighted problems with the way Tallahassee, Florida, authorities investigated star Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston — the first player picked in the NFL draft this week.
Several Tulane students interviewed by The Advocate questioned the university’s response to the Veal case. Many of them have called for greater transparency on the issue of sexual assault on campus. Morgan Wittenberg, the former student body president, said the Veal case “made students wonder if there were different standards for football players.”
“Everybody asked the questions,” she said in an interview, “but nobody knew where the answers were.”
The lawsuit describes the woman as a successful basketball player, a coveted high school recruit who had committed to play at Tulane before the assault “caused (her) to withdraw” from the university. In addition to Veal and Diaz, the lawsuit names as defendants Lisa Stockton, the university’s longtime basketball coach, and Adesuwa “Day-Day” Ebomwonyi, a basketball player who had been charged with buying the recruit alcohol the night of the alleged rape. Like the Veal case, that charge was dismissed by prosecutors earlier this year, according to court records.
The university, which declined to comment on the lawsuit, has not said whether Diaz or Ebomwonyi faced any discipline, and it also is unclear whether the allegations of underage drinking amid a recruiting event sparked an NCAA investigation. In an October interview, Scott Schneider, then a lawyer for the university, said Tulane had conducted a “meticulous” Title IX investigation into the woman’s claims and found no indication Veal “had done anything wrong.”
“He was found to be not responsible for sexual misconduct with the finding of the disciplinary panel,” Schneider said, adding that Veal had then been reinstated to the football team. Veal had been suspended after his arrest but permitted to continue attending classes after checking in with the school’s Police Department.
Citing federal privacy laws, university officials have declined to discuss the particulars of their investigation, which resulted in a voluminous report that has not been made public.
“I’ve got a group of people who are very sensitive about this issue,” Schneider said in the interview. “I don’t want to do anything — or be seen in any way — that we are re-victimizing or dredging up details about this incident.”
Authorities also have been reluctant to discuss the case. In August, when it was announced the rape charges had been dropped, prosecutors offered no explanation for their decision. The District Attorney’s Office, in response to a public records request, released investigative police reports but withheld a host of documents, including 356 pages of records from Tulane that were apparently subpoenaed by a grand jury; 105 pages of text messages; 88 pages of medical records; several CDs containing statements; and other records.
“The case was refused because the DA did not believe that we possessed evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the crime for which he was charged,” said Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro.
The NOPD’s rape investigation was handled by Haynes, who was reassigned to patrol duty last year after his work and the investigations of four other detectives were slammed as severely lacking in a scathing report issued by New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux. The report cited shoddy or nonexistent work on the part of NOPD’s Special Victims Section, saying those detectives in particular failed to document follow-up investigations in their cases.
While prosecutors ultimately refused the rape charge, their decision does not appear to stem from failures on Haynes’ part. The detective conducted numerous interviews and also sought DNA evidence. In his supplemental report, Haynes concluded the woman had been “in a state of inebriation which didn’t allow her to have knowledge that (Veal) was having sex with her.” He pointed in part to text messages the woman sent shortly after the incident that suggested the sex occurred “without her knowledge.”
The young woman, who had been a senior in high school at the time, visited Tulane’s campus in April 2014 as part of a recruiting event. She told authorities she went out drinking with Tulane women’s basketball players and at least one other high school recruit.
Ebomwonyi, a women’s basketball player who was 21 at the time, had been tapped as a chaperone and allegedly started the night of heavy drinking by buying recruits drinks at a nearby daiquiri shop before heading to the French Quarter. The group later returned to the university area and went to the Palms Bar and Grill, an Uptown bar that has been repeatedly dogged by allegations of selling alcohol to minors.
The victim told police Ebomwonyi had given her a fake identification to get into the bar and bought her more drinks there. The woman had been “intoxicated prior to their arrival to the Palms Bar and (became) even more intoxicated upon her departure,” the report says.
The woman told police that Ebomwonyi left the bar and that she eventually began walking with Diaz, Veal and a second basketball player, Paije Hall, back toward campus. Hall suggested they go to Veal’s room to watch a movie, the report says. The woman told police she “thought Diaz was cute and they had been flirting with one another the entire night.”
In Veal’s room, the woman said, she began to kiss and have sex with Diaz as the movie played. They both were drunk, she said, and fell asleep in Diaz’s bed.
The woman told police she fell into a “much deeper sleep than she normally does” but was awakened by Veal “being on top of her” and raping her. The woman was shocked and looked around the room to find Diaz gone, the report says.
The woman, after leaving the room, eventually asked one of the school’s basketball coaches to take her home. She also called her sister’s boyfriend and told him she was “very upset and wanted to come home,” the report says.
The woman later told her parents about the incident, who suggested she go to Interim LSU Hospital to have a rape examination performed. The lawsuit alleges the woman received “physical injuries to her legs, thighs and vaginal area.” It also says she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident.
According to the police report, the woman told detectives she had text messages in which Diaz “tried telling her to forget about it and telling her that she can’t be getting that drunk in college.” He supposedly told the woman he had been feeling sick and left to go to the bathroom when the alleged rape occurred.
The woman did not contend to police that she had been raped by Diaz, but said that, having just met him hours earlier, she likely would not have had sex with him had she been sober. In another inconsistency, the lawsuit says the woman “had not previously engaged in sexual intercourse” before the night in the dorm. Haynes’ investigative report, however, quotes the young woman as saying she was not a virgin.
In an interview with police, Veal acknowledged having sex with the high school student but insisted it was consensual. He said that, after Diaz left the room to go to the bathroom, the young woman had been looking for her phone and he handed it to her. They came very close, face to face, when he handed it to her, he said, and he began rubbing her back and shoulders, “telling her she was going to be fine.” He said the woman made sexual advances toward him.
In his interview with police, Veal reiterated repeatedly that she was awake and aware of what was occurring.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian