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Northern Kentucky University files motion for ‘gag order’ in Doe rape case, cites possible ‘juror bias’


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Staff report

Northern Kentucky University has filed a motion asking federal District Court Judge William O. Bertelsman to impose a gag order on all parties and their counsel in the case of Jane Doe who has sued the university over its handling of a rape Doe says occurred in a campus dorm in 2013. She was a freshman at the time.

Read the full text of NKU’s motion

The university’s lawyer, Katherine M. Coleman of Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Maloney law firm in Lexington, filed the motion Friday, in the wake of news reports about the deposition of NKU’s former police chief, Les Kachurek, in which he said that two friends of the male student the young woman had identified as her attacker told him he had confessed to the rape. Kachurek also said that administrators did not take his suggestions on improving campus safety and never provided him copies of sanctions against any students, which made it impossible to enforce such sanctions.

The deposition was part of a public record. NKU wants the judge to seal future documents related to the case so they cannot be made public.

Then followed on August 24 news reports revealing an abuse of a female NKU student in Newport last March by four male students. The incident was investigated by Newport police, but the young woman refused to press charges saying she feared “repercussions” because her attackers were members of the NKU basketball team. Though the incident was reported by Newport police to NKU police, no report was filed on the NKU police log. An NKU spokesperson later said the incident was handled internally for reasons related to student privacy. The student’s names were listed in the Newport police report, a public document.

Student protest last fall. (NKyTribune photo)

Student protest last fall. (NKyTribune photo)

The motion for the gag order argues that Jane Doe’s case “has been the subject of publicity from the outset” but that “active campaigning to the press by a party or a party’s council is inappropriate” and creates prejudice that threatens the ability to obtain a fair trial.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune will file an amicus brief with the court objecting to the imposition of a gag order, said Judith Clabes, editor and publisher. The Cincinnati Enquirer has reported that it will also file an objection.

The motion points to at least “seven separate known news stories since January,” and points particularly to the most recent, a Cincinnati Enquirer story on August 14. The story was based on the deposition of Kachurek filed with the court that became a public document.

The motion says that Jane Doe and her counsel were specifically interviewed for that story.

In that story Jane Doe describes her “alleged” treatment at NKU — by officials and students. Her attorney, Kevin Murphy, is quoted as calling NKU’s behavior “appalling” and revelations in Kachurek’s deposition as “shocking.”

Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

The motion also cites a story appearing in the Northern Kentucky Tribune on January 22, a report about the filing of the lawsuit in federal court. Coleman’s motion for NKU says that “Murphy was extensively quoted in the story.”

“The references in the motion regarding our story are misleading in themselves,” said Clabes. “The story cites at length the exact language from the lawsuit which Mr. Murphy did file on his client’s behalf. It is public record. Mr. Murphy offered no additional comments for the story, nor did his client. The quotes in the story are directly from the lawsuit. Please note that the university’s response was also published in full and verbatim as was the full text of a controversial campus wide email from then Police Chief Kachurek.

“This motion fails to note that in a subsequent story on February 19, when the university filed its official response and asked for dismissal of the lawsuit, the NKYTribune also extensively quotes the university’s response verbatim. Neither Mr. Murphy nor his client were quoted in that story. It deals completely with the university’s official response, which is a matter of record.”

At the time, the NKyTribune provided access for readers to both legal documents in full. Those links to that public information are repeated here:

NKU Doe Response

Doe NKU Complaint

The motion cites several other stories in which Murphy has been liberally quoted with comments that “paint an extremely negative picture of the Defendants” while they are bound by “responsibilities imposed” by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

Katherine Coleman

Katherine Coleman

NKU argues that deposition transcripts and student records should be sealed. The motion refers specifically to Murphy’s recent deposition of NKU Athletic Director Ken Bothof, not yet public. Coleman objects that Murphy questioned Bothof about unrelated incidents on campus that involve “nonparty” students to the Doe case.

“The sealing of depositions will prevent the abuse of discovery for salacious media purposes,” protect nonparty students’ privacy, and keep the plaintiff (Jane Doe) from taking her case to the “court of public opinion,” says Coleman’s motion.

The motion concludes that “due to the extreme imbalance between the parties’ abilities to publically comment on this case, there is a severe likelihood of juror bias against the Defendants” (NKU, et al).

In response to inquiries, Murphy did tell the NKyTribune this morning that “a government agency receiving federal funds and supported by taxpayers should not be able to keep secret the sexual violence on their campus. The university’s policies and practices related to the handling of sexual abuse — in total and in specific incidences — is very much relevant to my client’s case.”

Mike Farrell, director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky and special projects editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune said, “The university’s attempt to prevent more information about this lawsuit from reaching the public demonstrates a blatant disregard for the First Amendment right of all Americans to be informed about what their government is doing.

“In a Supreme Court decision declaring trials should be open to the public and the news media, then Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, ‘People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing.’

“But that is exactly what NKU is doing, trying to keep the public from understanding how it handled this situation. The motion to gag the young woman and her attorney and seal other records shows its contempt for the public. No scientist has ever proven that pretrial publicity infects potential jurors to the point they can’t disregard it and decide a case only on the evidence.”

Previous related stories in the NKyTribune:

NKU students carrying mattresses protest

NKU student files suit related to sexual assault in dorm

NKU files reply to Doe complaint.


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11 Comments

  1. Kurt Newbauer says:

    It sounds to me like NKU is more worried about covering their behinds than getting to facts about rapes and assaults. I’m still upset about what has gone up with my favorite player Dean Danos, they took him off the basketball team and making him fake injury to be a paid manager. They do everything they can to sweep things under rugs, my family feels terrible for Clean Dean. Coach Brannen should play Dean in Senior day cause many of us love him, he has a grade point average better than all the other players on the team but they take his scholarship and give to someone cause they already went over the limit.

  2. Paul Webster says:

    John Brannen knows all about trouble from his Alabama coaching days. No surprise he is in the middle of trouble at NKU. His family members go on a local chat room to deflect the truth. His brother Grant Brannen is the coach at Walton-Verona, he should stay out of public chat rooms trying to knock down the truth Kevin Murphy is presenting for this lady who was assaulted at NKU. This Dean Danos news in the above posting would be impossible to defend. I would never send my daughters to NKU.

    • Ty Adams says:

      Thanks to your comment, I understand the Brannen family members on the chat room are now on the Bench. I agree with you about John Brannen in regard to Dean Danos. I will admit to being a supporter of Dave Bezold and believe if Danos has been booted to a managers seat, this is an agenda to get rid of Bezold’s remaining players. Danos is an honor student in the medical program, meanwhile they tolerate Todd Johnson and Jeffrey Garrett. Some message being set right there by Brannen.

  3. Clyde Spencekraig says:

    This unjustified bashing of Northern Kentucky University needs to stop. The agendas are on display in full force. Attorney Murphy attacked Kenny Bothoff trying to uncover demons that do not exist. If they did exist, it would have nothing to do with John Brannen. John was not the coach when the rumored things happened, it was Bezold who was let go for running a undisciplined program. Do not think for one minute Bezold’s people are not guiding Attorney Murphy’s pursuit of the demons as a way to discredit the work John is going for NKU. As for John’s family trying to deflect criticism of blatant falsehoods in message boards, I say good for them. Someone has to get the real truth out there, this is all a bunch of bull trying to ruin good people like Kenny Bothoff and John Brannen.

    • Paul Webster says:

      You are not concerned about the victim. What are the rumored things you say don’t exist. For you to say Bezold’s people are behind this shows how silly you are. Bezold has not been coach for two years.

  4. Clyde Spencekraig says:

    The Dean Danos thing isn’t a big deal. Dean is unable to play due to an injury, he’s serving as a manager. He is getting his tuition paid for in full. He wasn’t going to see much action this year with the recruits John brought in.

    • Paul Webster says:

      I wonder if Dean Danos thinks its a big deal John Brannen yanks his Senior Year from him on the basketball floor.

  5. Latisha Byrd says:

    No respect for the victim’s rights. NKU is set to drag a victim through this to make their own people look innocent. It needs all women’s rights groups to boycott everything about NKU and its approval of violence against the girls on their campus. My opinion but how much else is being hidden out there.

  6. Ty Adams says:

    Funny how Mearns was calling press conferences left & right during the Eaton scandal, now he wants no part of the press because he knows he’s caught. All Mearns preached was being open and honest with the public with the Eaton stuff, now he is silent and hides behind FERPA. The I-Team made Mearns look like a idiot with that dance team cover-up a couple years back, he denied it and the tv reporter caught him in a lie. No more press conference for Mearns after the dance team scandal.

  7. Coach Jones says:

    Dean Danos proved he could not play at this level unfortunately. 3.3 ppg and 67% from the free throw for an undersized guard is not acceptable. It makes total sense that they let him go. For the kids sake they should have let him go after his sophomore year so he could play at a lower level. But a new coach, whose head is on the line, would not keep the mediocre players from a previous coach. If my jobs on the line, I let him go…which coach did. I stand behind coach. It was a no brainer from his point of view…nice kid or not…great grades or not….this is a business….a tough one…

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