This is Waco Attorney, Jim Dunnam, expressing exactly how I feel reading this.
Plaintiff’s attorney: Anderson sought settlement to drop sex assault charge
Attorneys for former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Anderson sought a settlement with his victim in exchange for her dropping the sexual assault charges against him, the woman’s attorney told a judge Tuesday.
Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who represents the former Baylor student who alleges Anderson sexually assaulted her at an off-campus Phi Delta Theta fraternity party in 2016, told 414th State District Judge Vicki Menard about the offer during a pretrial hearing in the woman’s civil suit.
Anderson accepted a plea agreement from the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office that placed him on deferred probation for three years after his no contest plea to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the four counts of sexual assault, and Anderson will not have to register as a sex offender or serve jail time.
Menard set Tuesday’s hearing after Dunnam filed a motion to postpone a Jan. 17 court date Dallas attorney Dennis Conder scheduled in his efforts to get his client, former Baylor student Colin Ruska, dismissed from the lawsuit.
The woman’s lawsuit names as defendants Anderson, 20 former or current fraternity members, the local chapter and national office of Phi Delta Theta and the elderly owner of the South Third Street residence known around Baylor as the “Phi Delt Ranch.”
The suit alleges the woman was sexually assaulted at the party, that fraternity members served alcohol to underage students and created an unsafe and unlawful atmosphere.
Dunnam told Menard that he and the attorneys for the fraternity defendants agreed to allow the criminal case against Anderson to be resolved before proceeding with the civil case. He accused Conder of trying to interfere in the criminal case by filing his motion for summary judgment three days before 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother announced, over the victim’s protests, that he would accept Anderson’s plea agreement.
Dunnam also said Conder set the hearing on the summary judgment motion without consulting with him, telling Menard he has conflicting court dates on that day.
Dunnam asked Menard to postpone the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, saying it would be unfair to hear the motion without allowing Dunnam first to proceed with the discovery process. Menard granted Dunnam’s motion and instructed the attorneys to continue working through discovery issues.
“This young woman has been trying to get to court for three years, your honor,” Dunnam said. “That is done. I have no comment on those proceedings. She should not be denied her day in court. That’s all she wants. This is just gamesmanship to deny us basic discovery. We should not be faulted for not interfering with the criminal proceedings.
“I got a call this summer from the defense lawyers for Mr. Anderson wanting to come meet with me and talk about his parents paying my client money to drop the criminal proceedings. That’s interfering. I said no. I am not going to meet with them and discuss by implication paying her money in exchange for her trying to drop the charges. This has been about staying out of the criminal proceedings.”
Fort Worth attorney Tim Moore, who represented Anderson in the criminal case with Mark Daniel, said Tuesday that Dunnam is blowing the situation out of proportion. He said no such offer would have been made without the involvement and cooperation of the district attorney’s office.
“I recall one very brief phone conversation with Mr. Dunnam,” Moore said. “I recall asking him about possible restitution, if any. Nothing substantive was discussed and there were most certainly no offers made. There were no further conversations.”
Dunnam declined to elaborate on the conversation after the hearing. Moore also declined additional comment.
Conder argued that the summary judgment motion should proceed because he said his client was a senior at Baylor and was in Austin when the party was held. He said he had nothing to do with planning it and knew nothing about the sexual assault allegations until he read about them in the Tribune-Herald.
Conder said if Ruska was even still an officer at the time, he was acting as “scholarship chairman” and tried to make sure fraternity members kept their grades up.
Conder told the judge it was not fair to “hold my client hostage” by keeping him in the lawsuit two years after he graduated from Baylor simply because Dunnam took a “shotgun approach” to naming defendants before finding out if they were even at the party or had anything to do with it.
Dunnam said he is pleased with the judge’s ruling to delay the summary judgement hearing.
“It is essential that this young woman be given the opportunity to have her full day in court, and I think this is a positive step for that so we can get the facts out and proceed so we can get justice in the civil proceeding,” Dunnam said.
Baylor suspended the fraternity after the allegations surfaced, and it remains suspended, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said. Baylor did not allow the fraternity to return in the spring, and it will be eligible for reinstatement in spring 2020, she said.
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