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$50M suit alleges backlash to Miles allegations

5:22 PM ETAssociated Press BATON ROUGE, La. — In a $50 million federal racketeering lawsuit, an LSU associate athletic director has accused university officials of retaliating against her for reporting racist remarks and inappropriate sexual behavior by former Tigers football coach Les Miles.Sharon Lewis’ lawsuit says she was denied pay raises and subjected to verbal…

5: 22 PM ET

  • Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — In a $50 million federal racketeering lawsuit, an LSU associate athletic director has detained college officials of retaliating against her for reporting racist remarks and inappropriate sexual behavior by former Tigers football coach Les Miles.

Sharon Lewis’ lawsuit says she was denied pay raises and subjected to verbal abuse after going to officials with the allegations against Miles, including her accusation that he told her there were”too many Black girls” employed in athletics and an incident in which a female student accused him of”getting along with her” on his office couch. It also accuses LSU officials of working with a law firm to cover up allegations against Miles, including one that he engaged in “explicit sex acts” with a student.

“This lawsuit is a work of fiction eight decades in the making,” Miles’ lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said in an emailed statement. Miles has denied allegations he made sexual advances toward students.

Lewis, a former track and field star for the Tigers, is the associate athletic director for football recruiting and alumni relations at LSU. Her lawsuit, filed in Baton Rouge, is the most recent hit on the university following an unaffiliated investigator decided that the school mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct by student-athletes and Miles.

“We are disappointed that a 20 year employee, who has received several promotions throughout her career and currently serves as Associate Athletic Director, is now filing a lawsuit against the university,” LSU attorney Winston DeCuir said in an email. “Following the press conference by her counsel, we believe that this lawsuit is an attempt to take advantage of the situation for personal benefit.”

Numerous LSU officials refused to testify Thursday at Baton Rouge at a legislative hearing regarding the ongoing scandal, sending DeCuir on their behalf.

Several LSU pupils told the committee that they don’t believe university leaders are doing enough to improve the climate.

“It still feels like the university is waiting for everything to go away,” said Charlie Stephens, a sophomore in LSU’s mass communications school.

Lewis’ lawsuit says her complaints to LSU about Miles’ behaviour led to retaliation by Miles, executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry, senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar and others. Additionally, it alleges the formation of an”enterprise” whose associates conspired to protect the university from sexual harassment complaints and allegations of violations of the federal Title IX sex discrimination legislation. The alleged enterprise included five former or current LSU board members, Ausberry, Segar, former athletic director Joe Alleva and attorneys using a law firm — Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips — hired by the university to look into the allegations.

Vicki Crochet, an attorney with Taylor Porter and a suspect in Lewis’ lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in a letter to a state Senate committee, she defended Taylor Porter’s handling of the allegations.

“We stand behind our analysis and the comprehensive work we did for LSU,” she wrote, saying students’ confidentiality was a top concern.

Miles was recently ousted as Kansas football coach following the launch of a 148-page review from the Husch Blackwell law company concerning LSU’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints campuswide.

Lewis’ suit says Miles told her in 2009 that there were”a lot of Black girls” employed by the athletics department. It says she refused to fire them.

Lewis said she was ordered by Ausberry to arrange for Miles to interview female students at night in his office. The suit says some of the women interviewed reported that Miles”asked them about their sexual lives.”

Lewis said she eventually suffered a mental breakdown as a result of the hostility and harassment.

The university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm after reporting by USA Today scrutinized LSU’s handling of sexual assault cases implicating two former football players. Ausberry and Segar were briefly suspended without pay.

Lawmakers expressed frustration Thursday with the university’s refusal to fire athletic department employees named in the investigative report.

“People have observed bad actors, and there were no consequences at all,” stated Sen. Beth Mizell, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

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