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Liberty University police poorly investigated sex assault or hid details, attorney says

Liberty University (Credit: Sky13)
Liberty University (Credit: Sky13)
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As part of a year-long investigation — ABC13 has found gaping holes in police reports connected to a lawsuit that accuses Liberty University of sexual assault coverups.

In July, 12 women filed a lawsuit that has graphic accounts of sexual misconduct on campus and says the university failed to properly investigate and even blamed the victims in some cases. Ten more women later signed onto the lawsuit.

One woman, who was 15-years-old at the time, says she was attacked and groped by a man on campus while she was attending a summer debate camp at Liberty University. The lawsuit says she “later became aware this man was Jesse Matthew.”

RELATED: 'The system failed her:' Mother of Jesse Matthew victim on Liberty University lawsuit

The woman says that happened about 21 years ago. Jesse Matthew, Jr., a Liberty University football player at the time, wasn’t charged then and went on to sexually assault women and murder two college students.

While Matthew’s name is never mentioned in the police reports, chunks of information are redacted. In some cases, the names of Liberty University Police officers were concealed, but the victim’s name was made public in those reports. ABC13 has redacted her name on police reports we’ve posted online.

RELATED: 'Liberty Way should never be used to cover up wrongdoing:' LU pres. addresses lawsuit

The attorney for Jesse Matthew’s accuser, named Jane Doe 12 in the lawsuit, says more troubling than what’s in the police reports is what’s missing.

“Either the police did absolutely no follow-up, which is entirely consistent with the allegations that we have been making” Jack Larkin said, “or they actually did do a follow-up and they’re now not providing the information.”

Larkin says the police report suggests at least one of two possibilities: the investigation ended abruptly, or Liberty Police has failed to tell the public the outcome of the investigation.

Another public person is also brought into Jane Doe 12’s portion of the complaint: Lynchburg City Sheriff Don Sloan.

RELATED: Liberty University police not 'forthcoming' with reports: alleged victim, former VP says

While not named directly in the complaint, Jane Doe 12 alleges that after reporting the assault, the responding officer “required Jane Doe 12 to travel in the same car as her assailant.”

The lawsuit says that the responding officer identified himself as the Chief of LUPD. Sloan was the Chief of LUPD during that time in 2000.

The lawsuit also claims that police “demand that she strip and submit to being photographed by the chief of police.”

“I can unequivocally say that the statement that is being made there is not true,” Sheriff Sloan said in an interview with ABC13 in July.

RELATED: Former Liberty police chief denies handling sexual assault; records match victim's claim

Sloan said he never responded to this call. When asked if another one of his officers could have responded, he said yes.

“To say would there be somebody else? Of course. There was somebody else that worked for my office at that time, my agency, the Liberty University Police Department, that would have responded to that call,” Sheriff Sloan said. “But, I can tell you that I would never direct anyone to do the things that are alleged. Nor would I allow them to remain employed in my department if I found that out.”

Larkin said that despite Matthew or Sloan not being mentioned in the police report, his client’s story and recollection of events have not changed.

“Her testimony and her allegations in the complaint are not, ‘I recognize the person in the moment as Jesse Matthew,’ but rather a period of time later, she saw Jesse Matthew and connected the two,” Larkin said. “I have to acknowledge, it would be foolish of me not to, there is always room for error there. But, at the moment, her recollection remains unchanged.”

RELATED: 'Weaponization of the Liberty Way:' LU punishes women reporting sex assaults, lawsuit says

Despite never seeing this police report, according to Larkin, Jane Doe 12’s description of the assault in the lawsuit is almost identical to what was written in the police report about 21 years ago.

“There were multiple witnesses who corroborated her story at the time,” Larkin said.

The police report backs that up. There are written statements from four girls who say they saw a man matching the suspect’s description acting strangely in the all-female dorm.

One wrote that she asked his name and “he mumbled, but it started with an ‘M.’”

RELATED: Plaintiffs feel Liberty University police investigations are conflicts of interest

The officer also wrote in his report that he was not able to interview the suspect, a minor, without his parents present. There is no mention of Jane Doe 12’s parents being present, or even informed, even though she was also a minor.

The lawsuit writes, “Doe 12’s mother and sole guardian was never contacted regarding the photographs and did not consent to such photographs.”

The police report doesn’t say whether the victim was photographed.

“It is not in any way surprising that, of course, there is not a report where a member of the police says, ‘yes, I required a minor to undress and then photograph her after,’” Larkin said. “That’s not really what you would expect from the people who are committing the crime.”

SEE ALSO: Liberty University professor charged in sexual battery, abduction of student

A list of names that the suspect said would “clear his name from the allegation,” are redacted from the police report.

The officer also wrote in the report that the suspect’s parents “agreed to bring him to police headquarters to have a picture taken for a photo lineup.” There is no additional information in the report about this photo lineup. Photos are also not included.

The report ends, saying “further investigation ongoing,” but there are no details about what, if anything, police later found.”

Larkin said Liberty Police never charged anyone.

“It would be surprising to me if a solid police department that was conducting good police work really only generated two reports and had basically no ancillary documents in response to the attempted sexual assault of a minor while alone on a university’s campus,” Larkin said.

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