Old Dominion University is near settling a lawsuit filed by a former student who said campus police responded to her rape report in 2014 by interrogating her for nearly eight hours, according to an attorney involved with the case.
The nature of the settlement is unclear, though. While legal filings say the court was advised Monday the matter “is settled,” an attorney for the student said the two sides were still “finalizing the details.” The lawyer, Steven Kelly, declined further comment.
“We will happily disclose as soon as we can,” Kelly said.
A spokeswoman for the university declined this morning to comment in light of the “pending litigation.”
A jury trial was set to start next week in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, but Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr. notified the attorneys this week he planned to dismiss the lawsuit in a way it could not be refiled unless they told him otherwise.
Last week, Morgan denied a motion filed by the school’s attorneys to dismiss the case.
The lawsuit – which sought damages in excess of $75,000 as well as changes in how the department investigates sexual assaults – stemmed from a reported Oct. 12, 2014, sexual assault in the woman’s dorm room.
The woman, whom the lawsuit identified as Jane Doe, was an 18-year-old freshman. The suit said she was on a scholarship in ODU’s Honors College program and that her grades suffered as a result of the rape and the school’s indifference. She lost her scholarship that December.
According to the lawsuit, the woman was raped following an off-campus party at The District apartment complex, during which she met her attacker. She said the man walked her to her room in Virginia House and she told him he could sleep on her couch.
The man, who was not an ODU student, raped her while she slept, the lawsuit said.
The woman woke up, and she said she told him no several times, according to the suit. She said she called a friend for help, and later called her mother, her sister and a rape crisis center. She said she arranged to have a forensic examination at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
The woman also called 911 to report a sexual assault and was routed to the ODU Police Department, the lawsuit said. Officers picked her up, but took her in for questioning instead of to a hospital.
The lawsuit said police questioned her for almost eight hours. In the process, detectives denied her access to food and water and kept her separate from her family and a YWCA victim advocate, the lawsuit said.
At the same time, ODU police questioned the suspect. Officers provided him with a drink and a meal before letting him go home, the lawsuit said.
An ODU detective eventually took the woman to a medical facility for a forensic exam. The lawsuit said a nurse found evidence of trauma.
But later in the week, the detective contacted the woman to say the department was not going to pursue charges against the man because of a “lack of probable cause.”
Much of the lawsuit focused on how the school responded to the woman’s concerns. It alleged ODU violated Title IX – a federal law that mandates no person be excluded from an education program on the basis of sex.