Title IX claims against Liberty University were dropped voluntarily Tuesday, but defamation charges remain in individual lawsuits brought by three former football players who left the school in 2016.
The three plaintiffs — Cameron Jackson, Avery James and Kyle Carrington — filed suit against Liberty in 2017, alleging it botched an investigation into sexual assault allegations leveled at them, denied them due process under Title IX, and defamed them by publishing details of its investigation and withholding key information such as their claims of innocence against the charges.
Legal counsel for the plaintiffs and Liberty were tight-lipped about the dropped Title IX charges.
According to court documents, all three Title IX charges were dismissed “with prejudice” in Lynchburg District Court, meaning those individual claims cannot be brought forward again.
“The three cases are ongoing and not resolved. Liberty University has no further comment,” LU General Counsel David Corry wrote via email.
Joshua Farmer, the attorney representing Jackson, who was the first to file suit in April 2017, said in an email, “The court filings speak for themselves. There’s nothing more I can say at this time.”
Attorneys for James and Carrington also declined to comment on this most recent development.
Jackson, James and Carrington were accused of sexual assault by a former LU female student athlete, related to an off-campus incident in 2015 she claims was non-consensual. The alleged victim brought the claim forward 11 months after the incident took place and after she had left Liberty. No charges were filed following an investigation by the Lynchburg Police Department, but an LU inquiry found the three men had committed sexual assault and violated its code of conduct. Based on these findings by Liberty, Jackson and Carrington were removed from the university and the football team.
James already had transferred to play football at the University of South Carolina. Following LU’s finding, he was removed from the Gamecocks football team due to LU’s sexual assault transcript notation.
All three plaintiffs had their transcripts notated with this finding, which LU since has removed. Since the removal of those transcript notations, both Jackson and Carrington have enrolled at other schools. James’ status was unclear as of publication.
In their lawsuits, filed separately, the plaintiffs claimed the charges against them and LU’s handling of it irreparably damaged their reputations and undercut their academic and athletic careers.
Throughout the lawsuits, LU has stood by its Title IX investigation, and in court documents, LU attorneys stated any damages incurred by the three former football players were the result of their own actions. The alleged victim also has maintained her claims of sexual assault against the former Flames football players, according to various court documents filed by an attorney on her behalf.
Originally, each plaintiff was seeking $50 million in damages from the accuser, $50 million from Liberty and $250,000 from LU spokesperson Len Stevens for his role in authoring a news release they claim omitted key details, such as the university appeals process and their claims of innocence.
The scope of Carrington’s lawsuit shrank in November when a judge dropped defamation claims against the alleged victim, citing expiration of the statute of limitations on defamation. Both Jackson and James continue to seek defamation charges against the alleged victim in the 2015 incident.
All three still are pursuing defamation charges against LU and Stevens, with a jury trial scheduled for 2018.