Woman files lawsuits against UMass, four men linked to 2012 rape

By Mark Chiarelli

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Pierpont Residence Hall  (Jessica Chaiken/Daily Collegian)

Pierpont Residence Hall
(Jessica Chaiken/Daily Collegian)

A woman who was gang-raped in 2012 in her University of Massachusetts dorm has filed two civil lawsuits Tuesday linked to her rape, one against the University and the other against three men convicted in the rape and another man facing trial in the coming months.

Reports of the woman’s accusations of rape in 2012 against Adam Liccardi, Caleb Womack, Justin King and Emmanuel Bile Jr. shook the campus community, prompting the University to alter its housing policies. The gang-rape also spurred a fierce outcry for greater awareness of sexual violence and rape culture at UMass that echoed discussions taking place across the nation.

Tried separately, three of the men – Liccardi, King and Bile – have since been convicted in criminal trials on several counts of aggravated rape and rape, and are now serving state prison sentences. Womack is expected to face trial in the coming months.

The woman testified in all three cases held. According to court documents obtained by the Collegian, the woman, identified in the Hampshire Superior Court filings only by her initials, is named the plaintiff in both suits. The Collegian does not disclose the names of victims of sexual assault.

The civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against the four men on counts of sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. The  lawsuit  comes just over a month after the conviction of Liccardi – the third man to face trial in criminal court for the 2012 rape. He was found guilty of two counts of aggravated rape and one count of rape by a jury on Sept. 2.

The civil lawsuit against the University also seeks unspecified damages of “an amount reasonable according to the evidence as the Court deems appropriate” from UMass. According to the court filings, the suit also alleges the University failed to uphold her rights under Title IX.

The filings also show that the plaintiff is seeking a trial by jury in both lawsuits.

In the suit against the University, the plaintiff is also seeking damages from two UMass employees who she alleges acted “negligently and carelessly,” and failed to uphold their duty to ensure her safety. The filings say a “dangerous condition” was created as a “direct and proximate result” of the alleged negligence by the University.

The suit names John Doe, a security monitor assigned to Pierpont Hall on the night of the rape in 2012, as well as Jane Doe, a resident assistant within the dormitory, as co-defendants in the suit against the school.

The lawsuit filed against the University claims the school failed to fulfill reasonable duties to ensure the woman’s safety and was negligent in training both the security monitor and the resident assistant.

“This has been an extraordinarily difficult and painful time for the victim of this crime, and the University worked closed with the District Attorney’s office to support prosecution of the case,” UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said in a statement. “The University has no comment on the lawsuits.”

Blaguszewski later explained in a brief phone interview that it is University policy to refuse to comment further on active legal proceedings.

The suit against the University restates facts upheld in criminal court over the past year, including that the four men accused were not UMass students and were signed into a dormitory by an unidentified dormitory resident who did not know the defendants. The suit details that the men came to campus on Oct. 12, 2012 after the woman said she did not want to see them and then “repeatedly” raped her.

The suit claims that the dorm’s security monitor acted negligently by failing “to properly register and screen the four underage males,” and therefore, according to the documents, allowed the crime to occur.

The suit also alleges that the on-duty resident assistant that night failed to “properly monitor the residential hall,” “allowing” the four underage males to consume alcohol and marijuana – which they brought into the building – in the woman’s dorm room.

“As a direct and proximate result of Jane Doe’s negligence, a dangerous condition was created wherein the plaintiff was caused to be sexually assaulted and to otherwise sustain foreseeable bodily and emotional injuries and suffer great pain of body and mind,” the suit states.

The woman also alleges that UMass, which receives federal Title IX funding, “acted with deliberate indifference to known acts of harassment in its programs and/or activities as an educational institution.” She claims this negligence created severe harassment, and restricted her access to educational benefits.

The suit further claims UMass “had prior knowledge of high incidences of alcohol and drug related sexual assaults and sexual misconduct on campus.” The suit alleges the four men brought a large bottle of vodka into the dorm, and the woman has previously testified in the trials of Bile, King and Liccardi that she was rendered incapacitated due to alcohol consumption and was then raped.

UMass has been the subject of an open federal Title IX investigation dating back to 2011.

The plaintiff is represented by attorneys Earlon Seeley and Patrick McHugh, who are based out of Springfield. A call to their office was not returned as of Wednesday night.

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.