Man, this is depressing. I’ve read the entire Husch Blackwell Report, so you don’t have to. Because I think we should try to take in the findings and facts of the report with a truly open mind.
The first thing I want to review is the people most culpable for causing harm to others: those that are accused of actually committing sexual assault. We will get into the LSU reaction, because I think that’s what matters on systemic level, but on a personal level, it is impossible to justify the actions of some of the players, and it is the individual who is culpable.
The Drake Davis saga is unbelievably sordid, and takes a full 38 pages of the report. We will get into more details as it relates to LSU officials, but the report details a year-long saga of domestic abuse which eventually ended up the only way it could: with Davis arrested and convicted of his crimes.
From an LSU perspective, the timeline runs from an alleged incident occurring on April 3, 2018 which was not reported to the Title IX office until April 26. Even then, the Title IX office did not interview Jade Lewis until May 21 and did not interview Davis until June 5.
Davis contended that Lewis “kept hitting him on the back and head.” Remarkably, Davis admitted to the Title IX investigator that he “turned and punched [Lewis] in the stomach.” After punching Lewis, Davis said he “left the apartment.” Regarding the allegations of earlier abuse, Davis stated that he “did not recall punching Lewis before” and “maintained this was the first time.”
Throughout this interview, Davis maintained that he was the actual victim of abuse and “stated there have been several occasions where he could have reported Lewis for being violent but chose not to.” (p 78)(emphasis in the original)
Davis was ordered into mandatory counseling and defying almost all logic, the case was closed with no further discipline. The Title IX Office didn’t even monitor whether Davis was attending the counselling (he wasn’t). It was no surprise that on June 18, 2018, Miriam Segar was filing a new report.
Again, the Title IX office moved slowly, and did not interview Davis until July 11. Jade Lewis wasn’t interviewed until July 25. On August 13, 2018, Segar filed her fourth PM73 report on Davis.
Lewis would file a police report on August 16 and the LSUPD arrested Davis the following day. Davis was not placed on suspension by LSU until August 30, nearly two weeks after his arrest. The Title IX office didn’t even attempt an interview until September 10, an interview which never occurred, as David was arrested again on September 15, 2018. The result?
On January 2, 2019, Davis pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors: two counts of battery on a dating partner and one count of violation of a protective order. Lewis refused to participate in the prosecution of the case. (p 88)
On June 3, 2019, Davis allegedly committed yet another incident with Lewis. According to “Complainant 3”:
Jade was “stalking” Drake that evening and attempting to follow him from bar/bar. She said that while in the bar that evening, Jade had walked past her and “bumped” into her. She said that she noticed Drake leave the bar and saw Jade following him outside. Once outside she saw Jade chasing him through the parking lot and yelling and pushing him. She saw Jade punch Drake in the face multiple times and saw male friends of Drake pulling him away from her. (p 88)
Davis showed up at the Title IX office on June 27, despite being barred from campus due to his suspension. He consented to an interview on July 3. On July 18, 2019, Drake Davis was expelled, but due to recordkeeping error, this notation was not added to his transcript, allowing him to request his transcripts with no issue to transfer to Southern.
Despite being expelled, Davis continued to cause Title IX reports by allegedly assaulting LSU students, this time Complainant 3 from above, on November 23, 2019.
The report summarizes this tale with these conclusions, which I think are fair:
The reality is that the University was not equipped to handle a case this complicated. Equally clear is that these are precisely the sort of cases Title IX offices must be prepared to respond to.
However, we do not think it would be fair to those personnel (nor would it be an honest, nuanced account of what happened) to ignore the fact that Lewis repeatedly frustrated various University and other interventions which could have mitigated harm. … she recanted her allegations of abuse and falsely asserted that she “felt pressured [by Segar] to be dishonest about Drake hitting me.” We acknowledge and understand that the cycle of abuse is a tragic and common aspect of interpersonal violence that is challenging to navigate, and we do not include this information to cast blame on Lewis. These issues, though, had an impact on the University’s ability to effectively intervene.
While there were numerous University missteps, even under the best of circumstances, there are limits to what can reasonably be expected of higher education institutions in situations of this nature. Ultimately, the most appropriate and effective intervention was something LSU had little control over—Davis needed to be prosecuted and jailed. (p 92)
This is not to engage in victim blaming. None of Lewis’ behavior in any way excused any of Drake Davis’ behavior. You assault a woman or heck, another human being, you get what’s coming to you. But it is somewhat exculpatory for LSU, the institution charged with investigating the incidents.
There is only so much an institution, even one engaged in 100% good faith, can accomplish with an uncooperative witness and conflicting testimony. Now, LSU made these problems worse through poor record keeping, a woefully understaffed Title IX office, glacial response times, and unclear lines of responsibility and reporting.
Which sort of sums up why we don’t want universities in charge of sexual assault investigations: they are completely ill equipped for them, even if they were properly trained and well-staffed. Which LSU wasn’t. And still isn’t.
But I will note this falls well short of the USA Today allegation of a coordinated cover up: “At least seven LSU officials had direct knowledge that wide receiver Drake Davis was physically abusing his girlfriend, a different LSU women’s tennis player, but they sat on the information for months, while Davis continued to assault and strangle her.”
The timeline above doesn’t really support that version of events, particularly when coupled with Lewis’ inconsistent at best cooperation. The Title IX office moved too slowly, but never did it sit around for months doing nothing.
We will get to Miriam Segar’s role in all this, but she filed FOUR different Title IX PM73 reports regarding Davis and another report after he had been suspended, ultimately leading to his expulsion. If she was part of a cover up, she left a pretty extensive paper trail inconsistent with sitting around and doing nothing.
While not going straight to this fact, it did allow the lawyers to throw my favorite bit of shade at Drake Davis:
We have been unable to identify any motive for Mike Sell, the tennis coach, to protect a “star football player” who was abusing one of his star tennis players, especially since Davis was clearly not a star football player. (p 72)
Let’s start by acknowledging that Derrius Guice wasn’t just a great player for LSU, he was beloved. It was even a standard hipster take to talk about how Guice was better Fournette. Hell, I doubt that was even a minority opinion.
Guice wasn’t some guy. He wasn’t just another player, even a really good one. He was the face of the program. And… we really do not know these players.
The Guice allegations are like a punch in the gut. They are bad, they are credible, and there are lots of them.
He allegedly sexually assaulted a swimmer on January 23, 2016, leaving bruising on her upper arms. A witness informed Segar on January 26 and January 27, Segar encouraged the complainant to step forward and file a report. She declined.
In June of 2016, he had a drunken hook up with a tennis player. As her report stated:
That night, Guice forced [Complainant 2] to perform oral, then vaginal sex, she said. When she woke up in the morning, he was gone, she said. She told a few close friends that Guice had taken advantage of the situation, though she did not explicitly describe it as rape at the time, she said. (p 96)
Due to her alcohol abuse, she checked herself into rehab, paid for by LSU, on April 5, 2017. A week into her treatment, she reported for the first time that she believes that she was raped. No one from the Title IX Office followed up.
Guice took an unauthorized nude photo of a student worker without her consent on July 22, 2016. She filed a police report and then adamantly refused to have her information shared beyond that point or with any other LSU office.
Finally, on December 13, 2017, a woman began calling the football offices to report the “aggressive sexual harassment” of a Superdome security guard on December 9. She claimed to have reported this to coach, who was not identified in her incident report or the Husch Blackwell report.
There was no further action taken, and Guice played in the Citrus Bowl, his final LSU game, a few weeks later.
This is where I will draw my own conclusions because the report, unlike in the Davis section, does not draw any final conclusions. The coda instead is sadly poetic:
Brennan stated she “quietly” left LSU during the Fall 2016. She stated: “I couldn’t handle a million fans cheering [Guice] on, knowing what he’d done.” (p 100)
I mean... damn. That is quietly damning of everyone.
Guice was the subject of four incidents at this point: two physical sexual assaults, taking nude photos without consent, and aggressive harassment of 70-year-old woman.
All of these incidents were reported to at least someone in the LSU athletic department. There’s simply no way that the LSU football coaching staff did not know or at the very least, should have known, about the danger Guice presented.
Forget suspended, he was never disciplined. A PM73 report was never officially filed and the Title IX office never conducted a full investigation of any of the claims.
This is, frankly, outrageous. While I’m willing to grant LSU as an institution some latitude in the Davis matter, as that was more a situation of ongoing domestic abuse in a toxic relationship which the university was ill equipped to handle, Guice was a guy with multiple sexually charged violent crimes against multiple women over a span of two years.
While in Davis’ case, LSU didn’t do enough, nor did they do it quickly enough, it is with Guice the school truly did nothing. Or if they did, it was to keep it from the football staff to give them some perverse plausible deniability.
If heads roll, it should be over the case of Derrius Guice.
This was the case of the fraternity member who was not an athlete. I don’t want to get into this one on a sports site, but the details are again disturbing, and show a pattern of ineffectiveness from the LSU Title IX office. It does show that the school wasn’t so much protecting football players, but that it didn’t take any reports of sexual assault seriously.
That’s not better. This is a campus-wide problem which the report revealed to be system-wide. LSU’s prosecution of sexual assault cases is atrocious. The USA Today found that: “Out of 46 students found responsible, LSU expelled just one. It suspended 18 and gave lesser sanctions to 27. “
The report goes through eight other cases without identifying the players, though it would not be that hard to figure out who is who if you really put your mind to it, which I have no interest in doing. Honestly, this is the weakest part of the USA Today article, throwing as many allegations against the wall to see what sticks, using the theory that the more accusations there are, the worse it is.
But reading the report, it’s hard to find some systemic pattern of abuse. These eight players were all accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct, but in each case, a PM73 report was filed immediately and an investigation ensued.
Four of the eight were found to be responsible under the Title IX policy and issued sanctions. Respondent I was expelled. The three others found responsible were issued suspensions, but two of them transferred before any actual sanction could take effect, leaving just one player who stayed on campus and presumably on the team: Respondent E, who did take over a year to comply with the terms of his probation.
Of the other four cases, only one was found Not Responsible: Respondent G. He entered the transfer portal anyway. Respondents B and D had their investigations stall due to insufficient evidence, a decision which no party appealed. Respondent C’s investigation never got off the ground as the complainant refused to participate.
It’s easy to second guess an investigation in hindsight, but it is hard to find anything in the Husch Blackwell report which shows any sort of negligence or malfeasance. The biggest factor in finding a party Responsible seemed to be cooperation of the witness, which makes a lot of sense. When the complainant refused to cooperate, the investigation failed to find anyone responsible due to lack of evidence.
I don’t think anyone is advocating a solution of Force Sex Crime Victims to Participate. If the victim wants nothing to do with an investigation, that should be their choice, and we shouldn’t be compelling them to do squat. But the truth is, their participation is vital to get a finding against the assailant. I’m not sure what the solution to this issue is, or if there even is one.
The report found the biggest problem to be insufficient record-keeping which is important, but hardly salacious. LSU does a poor job of record keeping. But it is important this was their finding of the review of all Title IX cases:
We note that we did not find any evidence of preferences or unfair outcomes based on a respondent or complainant’s affiliation or identity—i.e., status as an athlete, member of Greek Life, or other organization. (p 132).
This was all supposed to be prelude to getting to the part where we started casting blame, but this is already running long. This went beyond mere introduction, so we’ll save the recriminations for Part 3.
But we should note that the sanction that is most important is for those who actually commit crimes to see jail time. Guice’s case is pending and Davis has been found guilty. Good. Playing football is not a pass to commit crimes. They bear the responsibility for their own actions.
What responsibility does LSU bear? Well, we’ll get into that next time.