Texas Rangers launch Baylor investigation

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The Texas Rangers have launched a preliminary investigation of sexual assaults at Baylor.

(File)

The Department of Public Safety issued a statement in which it said, "The Texas Rangers are working with the local prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if further action is warranted."

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said the Rangers have been working with his office "to review any information obtained from Baylor University for the presence of any potential criminal conduct.

"Baylor has already cooperated and been providing our office information regarding specific instances of sexual assaults, " he said.

"We are now going to sit down with Baylor, through their office of general counsel, and discuss the disclosure of the information referenced in the Pepper Hamilton report. The Texas Rangers have been kept in the loop of these communications," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, State Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, who filed a resolution last Friday calling on the Legislature to urge Gov. Greg Abbott “to direct the Texas Rangers with investigating the obstruction of justice surrounding the sexual assault of young female students at Baylor University, told ESPN in an interview that the investigation was underway.

“We appreciate the expeditious efforts of the Department of Public safety and we look forward to the findings of their investigation,” Gutierrez later said in a statement to KWTX.

Although his resolution called on the governor to order the investigation, Gutierrez told ESPN the Rangers didn’t need that authorization to move forward.

"(DPS Director Steven McCraw) did begin a preliminary investigative process and found there was enough to go forward and really see that there was some shortcomings both by the Baylor Police Department and the Waco Police Department.”

The Waco Police Department said it has not been made aware by the Texas Rangers of any shortcomings.

“We would welcome any investigation by the Texas Rangers into this matter,” police Chief Ryan Holt said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

Baylor, in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon, said it "pledges to extend our full cooperation with the Texas Rangers surrounding the issue of sexual assaults that occurred within our campus community several years ago, as we have done with other external inquiries that are currently underway.”

Gutierrez has also called on the governor to reduce the $10 million in annual grants the school receives until an investigation has been completed and until “concrete measures are in place to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again at Baylor.”

Such a move, however, would likely have more impact on the students who receive the aid than on the university, which is mostly immune to government oversight as a private institution.

Citing figures from lawsuit filings, Gutierrez said in the resolution filed Friday that Baylor “has admitted that not less than 34 football players assaulted over 52 young women over the span of 5 years.”

Baylor, however, said in a statement Monday it “has previously disclosed that it is aware of 17 women who have reported to media or University resources allegations of sexual assault involving 19 football players since 2011. Any other reported figures are allegations from opposing parties as part of legal proceedings.”

The figures Gutierrez cited are from a lawsuit filed on Jan. 27 on behalf of a former Baylor student, identified only as Jane Doe who claims she was raped by two football players in April 2013 alleges that the football program’s “rape culture” resulted in 52 rapes involving at least 31 players between 2011 and 2014.

The 26-page suit includes no documentary support for the number of rapes and players, which far exceeds the number provided by Baylor regents, who told the Wall Street Journal in November that the scandal that engulfed the football program involved 17 women who reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 players including four gang rapes since 2011.

Baylor also took issue with the lawmaker’s statement in the resolution about “the staggering admission by Baylor University that at least 125 young students reported being sexually assaulted - and these are non-football related assaults. Baylor's own Title IX Coordinator says the number is even higher.”

“Baylor is currently reviewing approximately 125 reports of sexual assault or harassment from 2011 to 2015,” the university statement said.

“This is a part of the 105 recommendations adopted by the university to evaluate patterns and trends as well as to identify victims who are still at Baylor and may need support or restorative assistance,” the school said.

The resolution also claims that Baylor has resisted efforts to release information “which would reveal the conduct of senior administrators and attempted to put the blame entirely on football coaches.”

The university responded that it is extending “full cooperation with governmental and law enforcement authorities surrounding the issue of sexual assaults that occurred within our campus community several years ago, as we have done with other external inquiries that are currently underway.”

The school also said its police department “has made significant strides in response to sexual violence and overall campus safety.”

An external audit of the department in 2014 led to the hiring of a new police chief and the creation of an associate vice president for public safety and security position to oversee the department.

“Our hearts are heavy at the thought of anyone experiencing sexual assault within the Baylor Family,” the university’s statement said.

“As we have said previously, any such acts are reprehensible and unacceptable. The University remains committed to eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination within our campus community.