A woman who said she was raped at a Baylor University fraternity party in 2016 sued the local and national chapters of Phi Delta Theta alongside the landlord of the “Phi Delt Ranch.”
The lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in 414th State District Court stems from the case of Jacob Anderson, the Phi Delta Theta president arrested in March 2016 on a sexual assault charge. Anderson, 20 years old at the time of his arrest, was indicted two months later on four counts of sexual assault.
The lawsuit names Anderson and the fraternity officers at the time of the alleged assault as defendants: vice presidents John Cabot and Matthew Donaldson, treasurers Spencer Flora and Dusty Wright and risk-management officer Derek Williams. Each of them said Friday they did not hold those roles at the time of the reported incident.
Jennette Hunnicutt, landlord of the residence in the 2600 block of South Third Street, is accused of owning the property that “posed an unreasonable risk of harm.” The lawsuit states the risk of criminal conduct “was both unreasonable and foreseeable in light of what the premises owner knew, had constructive knowledge of, or should have known before the criminal act occurred.”
Anderson is set to stand trial on March 21. His Waco attorney, Phil Frederick, did not immediately return a voicemail.
“She said she was handed a drink of some kind of punch and was told, ‘Here you go. Drink this,’ ” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said at the time of the arrest. According to the affidavit, Anderson took the victim outside behind a nearby tent and sexually assaulted her. She lost consciousness, according to court documents, and awoke a short time later in the same area before finding a friend, who took her to a local hospital.
Baylor is not named as a defendant.
The lawsuit alleges the fraternity members bought alcohol with its official funds collected by membership dues and served it to minors at the party. The local chapter and officers were negligent in failing to safeguard against sexual harassment and assault and failing to notify the community of criminal activity, according to the plaintiff known as Donna Doe.
Baylor suspended the fraternity shortly after the arrest, and its status has not changed, Baylor spokesman Jason Cook said. Its website states it will become active in spring of 2019.
The Phi Delta Theta national chapter also failed to enforce procedures and sanctions against sexual violence, the suit alleges.
The fraternity’s national office confirmed the suspension of the Baylor chapter and Anderson’s removal at the time.
“Any action that is abusive or offensive towards women directly contradicts the values of the organization and violates our organizational policies. We are unable to provide any additional comment as this matter is now pending litigation,” the statement said.
Cabot, Donaldson, Flora, Wright and Williams told the Tribune-Herald by phone that they were not fraternity officers at the time of the assault. They said they contacted the national fraternity office for confirmation and would forward the confirmation to the Tribune-Herald.
Wright sent a signed letter from Phi Delta Theta confirming he was treasurer from Jan. 1, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015.
Williams was risk management officer from Jan. 12, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2015, according to a similar letter, and Donaldson held leadership roles from April 21, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2015. Cabot held leadership roles from Jan. 1, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015, according to a letter signed by the fraternity.
Flora was treasurer from Jan. 12, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2015, a similar letter stated.
They said the letters were sent to Jim Dunnam, the plaintiff’s attorney.
Each of them graduated in spring 2016, Cook said, when Anderson was last enrolled.
Dunnam, of Waco, who is working with Chad Dunn of Houston, declined to comment. The pair represents 15 alleged sexual assault victims suing Baylor under Title IX.
Anderson’s arrest shook the Baylor community. Two months later, Baylor regents fired Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach in the wake of a scathing report detailing how the university failed to investigate claims of sexual assault.
“This is a heck of a time to be accused of sexual assault, especially at Baylor University, with Baylor’s history with not being truthful with what’s going on,” Anderson’s then-attorney, Clyde Chandler, said at the time.
Hunnicutt, 84, was unaware of the lawsuit on Friday morning and thought the criminal matter had been settled.
“Our expectation for all student organizations is that their conduct and actions reflect the mission and values of the university in support of our caring community,” a university statement said.