A former Baylor University student who was sexually assaulted by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott plans to file a lawsuit against the school, alleging the school displayed “deliberate indifference” about her complaint.
Jasmin Hernandez and her attorneys, Alex Zalkin and Ryan Cohen, have scheduled media availability for Thursday morning to announce their allegations against Baylor.
The Tribune-Herald does not normally name sexual assault victims, but Hernandez’s lawyers said she agreed to being identified.
Two other former Baylor students testified at Elliott’s trial that Elliott sexually assaulted them, and there was evidence that a fourth student reported he sexually assaulted her.
Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said Baylor officials would not comment on the lawsuit.
“Individual incidents are deeply personal matters that do not benefit from our public statements,” Lewis said. “Even if a survivor chooses to speak or take other actions to support their healing, we must not publicly comment in a way that could compromise student confidentiality or inadvertently discourage future students from coming forward.”
Elliott, a defensive end from Mount Pleasant, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $10,000 in 2014 after his conviction on two counts of sexually assaulting Hernandez at a party at a Waco apartment complex in 2012.
Zalkin, whose law firm is in San Diego, California, said he will file Hernandez’s lawsuit in Waco’s federal court, which will allege Title IX violations and negligence against Baylor. Zalkin said the suit will claim Baylor authorities “were deliberately indifferent to complaints by student victims of rape” by Elliott.
The attorneys had planned to hold a news conference Thursday in Waco, but they were unable to fly out of California because of inclement weather. The firm said Wednesday evening Hernandez and Zalkin will attempt to arrange an online presentation.
Baylor has been under intense scrutiny about how the school has handled recent rape allegations. An ESPN “Outside the Lines” report featured multiple women who claimed they were raped by Elliott. It was not clear Wednesday whether Hernandez was one of the women in the ESPN report.
Since that report, other sexual assault victims have come forward with complaints about how Baylor officials handled their sexual assault cases. One woman said she was blamed by Baylor police when she reported an alleged rape, saying an officer told her that she would not have been assaulted if she had not been drinking.
Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault in August, and jurors recommended he be placed on probation. After that trial, Baylor asked Baylor Law School professor Jeremy Counseller to conduct an internal review of the school’s practices regarding reported sexual assaults. The university then hired a Philadelphia-based law firm to review the school’s procedures and make recommendations about how to improve their responses.
Baylor also reached an undisclosed settlement with Ukwuachu’s sexual assault victim. No lawsuit was reportedly filed, but the family of Ukwuachu’s victim retained the services of Boulder, Colorado-based lawyers John Clune and Chris Ford.
Clune has handled several high-profile federal lawsuits involving athletes accused of sexual assault, including representing the woman who accused former Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012.
At Elliott’s trial in Waco in January 2014, Hernandez, who left Baylor and moved back to Orange County, California, told jurors that Elliott sexually assaulted her twice at a party attended by a number of Baylor athletes at an apartment complex on South Third Street.
She said she had not met him before that night, did not attend Baylor football games and had not seen him again until they faced each other in court.
Hernandez testified she went to the party with four friends, and they separated for a bit. Later, she started looking for her friends and told jurors that Elliott offered to help her look.
She said Elliott grabbed her by the hand and led her outside and away from those gathered for the party. Hernandez said Elliott suddenly swooped her up in his arms and carried her toward a pool house. She told him to put her down, and Elliott pushed her onto a muddy slope and sexually assaulted her, she said.
Hernandez said she repeatedly told him to stop, but he continued.
‘It hurt a lot’
“It hurt a lot,” she testified. “It was unwanted, unplanned. I felt like a thing.”
Hernandez told jurors she realized if she stopped resisting, it would not hurt as much.
After the assault, Elliott took her to another area nearby and assaulted her again near a fence, she said.
“At that point, I was feeling pretty defeated,” she told the jury.
Hernandez immediately told her friends that she had been raped, and they drove her to the hospital.
Elliott, who was suspended by Baylor head football coach Art Briles after his arrest, denied that he sexually assaulted the woman and said all his sexual encounters have been consensual.
That opened the door for prosecutors to ask about the other women who reported that he assaulted them and allowed them to testify during state rebuttal testimony.
One of the women, a Baylor graduate, testified Elliott sexually assaulted her two weeks before the incident for which he was convicted.
The woman, also a Baylor athlete, said she and Elliott were friends and she asked him to help her move a heavy desk into a spare bedroom at her apartment.
She said Elliott started playing around and she got into a playful wrestling match that the 6-foot 3-inch, 250-pound Elliott quickly escalated into an uncomfortable situation for her.
He carried her upstairs, put her on the bed and sexually assaulted her, despite her attempts to get him to stop.
“In his mind, he does not know what rape is,” she said. “To him, it was not rape. To me, it was definitely rape.”
Another female athlete, who graduated from Baylor in 2010, told jurors that Elliott sexually assaulted her after she passed out drunk at her apartment in 2009.
“I felt like he owned me,” she said. “He seemed very sure of himself.”
In hindsight, the woman testified, she regrets not having reported it because of the other women who allegedly were assaulted, too.
“This can’t happen anymore to anyone else. That’s why I came forward now. It appears I was the first and I could have stopped it,” she said.