Ex-student: Wake brushed off sex assault incident
Written by Joedy McCreary, AP Sports Writer Sunday, 22 May 2011 20:43
A former Wake Forest student said the school brushed off her allegations of a sexual assault by a basketball player to protect its athletic program.
Speaking Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, Margaret Hurt said Wake Forest didn't adequately pursue her allegations two years ago "on purpose because that was a way that they got their money." The interview aired as part of the program's package on how colleges respond to allegations of sexual assaults on campuses.
According to a report filed with Miami police in 2009, she accused guard Gary Clark of sexually assaulting her in a hotel bathroom after an NCAA tournament game while teammate Jeff Teague waited outside.
Hurt's name is redacted from the documents, which state that police investigated but declined to bring charges because of a lack of both physical evidence and witnesses. The school's judicial board also conducted an investigation and cleared the players of wrongdoing.
Michael Grace, a Winston-Salem attorney who represents both Clark and Teague, said in a statement that the players are "stunned and outraged by the allegations."
"That NBC would provide Ms. Hurt with a forum to air her story to millions — a story which is dramatically different from any story she has told in the past — without giving both Gary and Jeff an opportunity to respond, is tragic and will adversely affect them for years to come," Grace said.
Grace said neither he nor either player will make any further statements "until a proper forum can be identified to ensure a proper and full airing of all the facts."
He said Clark and Teague "are strongly evaluating potential legal action against both Ms. Hurt and NBC."
A spokeswoman for "Today" said the network would have no comment.
Teague now plays for the Atlanta Hawks, and officials with the NBA team didn't immediately return a phone message.
Clark, a senior member of the Demon Deacons' basketball team this year, graduated last weekend with a degree in mathematics.
Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, in an open letter to the school's community, said he is "troubled by the prevalence of sexual misconduct in our society today" but that "I feel strongly that the University's response, as well as our character, has been misrepresented."
School officials have said federal privacy laws prohibit them from commenting on specific details.
John Clune, Hurt's Colorado-based attorney, said Hurt and her family will decide "in the near future" whether to file a lawsuit and that their focus is on how the school responded to her claim.
"The university is an entity the parents feel they can trust their children to when they turn them over at the age of 18," Clune said. "When they feel like the school turns their back on them, that's almost as retraumatizing as the actual assault itself. ... Going forward, that's where their frustration lies.
"That's why there's such a focus on the university. Those are the people that are expected to do the right thing when push comes to shove," he added.
Hatch said the school has established a group to work with victims of sexual assaults and raise awareness, and has made available a full-time victim's advocate to inform students of their rights, "including their right to file a report with appropriate law enforcement authorities at any time.
"Ultimately, however, the decision of whether to file a police report, and when to do so, is a personal decision that must be made independently by the individual student," Hatch wrote.
Athletic director Ron Wellman said his department "works diligently to encourage conduct that properly reflects the values of our university."
According to the police documents, Hurt "ran into" Teague in the hallway of their Miami hotel at about 3:30 a.m. on March 21 — hours after the Demon Deacons were upset by Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Clark later joined the conversation, according to the report. She said the players asked her about performing oral sex, and she accepted Teague's invitation to go to a hotel room.
When they arrived, according to the documents, she and Clark entered the bathroom and Teague closed the door behind them. She said Clark lowered his pants and asked her to touch his genitals; after she declined, he asked her to perform oral sex, and she said she complied because she was afraid not to.
In Clark's statement to investigators, he said she removed his pants and the oral sex was consensual.
The report said Teague walked the woman back to her hotel room at about 5 a.m. and asked her what happened; when she explained, he hugged her, kissed her neck and left. She checked out of the hotel and returned to North Carolina without telling anyone, the report said.
After a few days she told a friend who insisted she report the incident to campus police, according to the documents. Records indicate the incident was reported to police in North Carolina on April 8 of that year, and the case was transferred to Miami police because that's where the incident took place. Detective James Rae of the Wake Forest campus police investigated and forwarded statements from Clark, Teague and a third male student to Miami authorities.
Laura Adams, an assistant state attorney in Miami, said in the report that she recommended no criminal charges be filed because the allegations were one-on-one in nature, there was a delay in reporting the incident to authorities, the players denied the allegations, there was a lack of evidence and there were no corroborating witnesses. The case was ruled closed.