Briles takes aim at Regents, BU in fiery filing; school responds

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Published: Aug. 30, 2018 at 1:22 PM CDT
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In a motion filed Thursday by attorneys representing fired head football coach Art Briles in response to allegations brought by former Baylor student Delores Lozano who claims the school failed to properly respond to her complaints of physical assault by a former football player, Briles’ attorneys say he is “compelled to defend himself.”

The 35 page motion says Briles always handled assault complaints properly and that the university has used him as a scapegoat to deflect from a much larger university-wide problem.

It also addresses many issues the coach has not responded to publicly, likely because he is under a non disparagement agreement with Baylor, in the 2 1/2 years since his termination from the school.

Much of the motion talks about highly publicized events surrounding the May 26, 2016, firing of Briles, addressing everything from criticisms of the way in which the Pepper Hamilton investigation was conducted to an explanation of the coach's role in responding to reports of assault that have been the subject of much back-and-forth between Briles and the university in the wake of the Board of Regents release of the 13 page "Findings of Fact."

“The facts will show that when made aware of allegations of sexual assault of domestic violence, Briles acted quickly and consistently to either suspend or remove players involved and to cooperate in university investigate processes,” the motion reads.

“The facts further show a campus-wide problem of sexual assault that pre-dated Briles’ coaching tenure at Baylor and that the university has never fully acknowledged in an attempt to protect the Baylor brand.”

However, a statement released by Baylor University at the request of KWTX states, “Briles’ selective memory overlooks the June 24, 2016, announcement of the termination of his employment relationship with Baylor, which states: “Both parties acknowledge that there were serious shortcomings in the response to reports of sexual violence by some student-athletes, including deficiencies in University processes and the delegation of disciplinary responsibilities within the football program.”

Briles' lead attorney, Ernest H. Cannon, responded to Baylor's statement saying it's legal manipulation.

"Sounds like more lawyer talk and less emphasis on the facts, general accusations without support," Cannon told KWTX. "Baylor doesn't believe that that's a two way street, they believe they're able to defame Art, say anything vile and nasty they can to skirt their own responsibilities and expect him not to say anything, and they're going to win that battle to this extent as we're going to answer in court where you have to be under oath and you don't just have lawyers spewing whatever they want to say."

In the motion, Briles' attorneys claim Baylor has had a long history of micromanagement by the Board or Regents and that shortly after a few regents met with Pepper Hamilton the focus of the initially stated independent external investigation was rewritten as an agreement in anticipation of litigation making it a privileged product.

The motion states this was intended to allow Baylor’s Board of Regents to withhold the facts of the investigation though the motion states the board continues to “trumpet” its “independent and external review.”

However in Baylor’s statement, the university asserts, “instead of turning a blind-eye to these serious findings within the football program, as Briles and his supporters would suggest, Baylor’s Board of Regents did not shirk their responsibilities and stepped up to take significant actions. They reaffirmed the University’s commitment to the safety and security of its students."

"Sweeping administrative and athletics leadership changes were made, in addition to the implementation of 105 recommendations for improvement, ” according to Baylor.

Cannon clarified that he believes only a 'rogue group of Regents' were complicit, and said his comments reflect his opinions, not Briles', but that there's nothing Briles wants more than to have every fact uncovered.

“They're wanting to blame all the problems at the university on one individual so that the rest of 'em aren't answerable to what happened," said Cannon.

In it's statement, Baylor says Briles and his supporters continue to "rewrite history" and it cannot go unchallenged.

"Just as when he was coach, he again attempts to skirt responsibility for actions of the football program that he led, the players he recruited and coached, the coaches he managed and the loose discipline he championed," the statement reads.

Cannon reiterated their side's desire to go to trial.

"If this is not developed in court we'll never know what the history was much less 'rewritten' because we've never known the truth to start with," said Cannon. "It’s beyond me to understand what their motive is other than to cover what really happened, it must have been something dreadful to go to this much trouble."

The filing by Briles’ attorneys also addresses a much talked about Wall Street Journal article in October 2016 in which Baylor regents with the help of California based PR firm GF Bunting claimed 17 women had reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 players.

Regent Cary Gray claimed Briles “delegated down” to his assistants but attorneys for Briles say their client never turned a blind eye to any assault and that the narrative out there saying he did is not supported by the facts.

Baylor states, “much of Briles’ response relies on hearsay and narratives that Baylor has previously debunked as ‘factually baseless and borderline ludicrous."

"The underlying facts of what happened at Baylor are quite simple: Two high-profile cases of sexual assault involving football players led the Baylor Board of Regents to launch an independent investigation of not only the football program but of the entire campus in terms of how reports of sexual violence were handled during a three-year period, states Baylor.

Furthermore, "The scathing results of this independent investigation by two of the nation’s top Title IX experts were horrifying and disturbing, with findings of gang rapes and sexual and domestic assaults by football players in addition to other discoveries throughout the University.”

The motion quotes a purported audio tape in which a very heated confrontation occurred between then newly hired Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and Baylor football assistant coaches on the day in which the Wall Street Journal article was published.

The motion says Rhoades told the coaches in the meeting that the regents dealings with the Wall Street Journal were "not right" and that he would call every athletic director in the country if necessary to defend the assistant coaches’ integrity. He said the newspaper had been convinced to keep the names of the assistant coaches out of the article. A source has provided KWTX an audio copy of that conversation which we will be sharing in follow-up reports.

Another centerpiece of the Wall Street Journal article was a claim that in one case Briles knew about an alleged incident and did not alert police, the school's judicial affairs office or the Title IX office.

That claim, which was settled, refers to an allegation made in the spring of 2013 by a member of the Baylor volleyball team to her coach Jim Barnes that she had been sexually assaulted by five Baylor football players approximately a year earlier.

The volleyball coach says, upon hearing the allegation, he took the information to the athletic director and was provided a phone number for judicial affairs to give to the victim.

The coach also met with Briles, who he says was supportive of the matter being reported to its fullest extent. "When I met with Coach Briles he immediately responded with concern for my player. He said she should prosecute the accused and he had nothing to hide or protect and asked how he could help," Barnes noted.

However, the victim and her family refused to report the incident and left Baylor.

Barnes says during later interviews with Pepper Hamilton he was praised for having urged the victim to report the incident and he was told both he had responded appropriately. I have not made a public statement because I needed to protect my players name.

"But because there is so much wrong information out there and Coach Briles has been accused of a cover-up, my player has fully endorsed me to make a statement. In fact, she said Art Briles was a good and faithful man. She appreciated his support and she was very thankful that he kept her name out of this as well," said Barnes.

But, according to Baylor's investigation, neither the volleyball coach, the athletic director, the sports administrator or the football coach reported this reported sexual assault to Baylor's Judicial Affairs or to anyone else outside of the athletics department.

Baylor notes, In 2013, athletic department coaches and staff should have reported the incident to one of three places: the University's Title IX Coordinator (then the VP of Human Resources), Judicial Affairs, or the Baylor University Police Department, all of whom would have been in a position to assist the victim and take responsive action.

“While a victim may choose where or how to report a sexual assault, once informed of the report, athletics personnel may not exercise discretion to not report,” the Baylor response reads.

The motion from Briles' attorney concludes, “the facts will show Art Briles acted always in good faith and in an earnest desire to appropriately respond to every allegation of sexual assault or domestic violence made against a player.”

The former Baylor coach says a narrative was created to focus blame for sexual assaults on black football players to direct scrutiny and national attention away from the regents and senior administration failures.

And, it ends stating, “Art Briles looks forward to further revealing the truth.”

Lozano's attorney, Sheila P. Haddock with the Zalkin law firm, released a statement to KWTX responding to Briles' motion:

"Coach Briles devotes the first 20 pages of his Answer to Ms. Lozano’s complaint to establish his own narrative in which he portrays himself as the victim of a smear campaign by Baylor Regents and promises to now defend himself with 'evidence that has long been withheld from the public.'"

"Unfortunately, what we are seeing right now in this case, and the Jane Doe 1-10 case, is a lot of finger pointing and blame shifting, with very little attention paid to the real victims – the young women who endured the culture of violence that existed at Baylor for years."

"Ms. Lozano looks forward beginning the discovery process in her case. And, she looks forward to shifting the focus back where it should be – bringing resolution to these courageous young women, holding those responsible accountable and putting an end to what she maintains is the widespread gender-discrimination that contributed to the her abuse."

Click on the related links to read the full motion along with Baylor’s full response.