8 More Women Claim Eastern Michigan University Covered Up Rapes: What New Lawsuit Alleges

Eight more women are suing Eastern Michigan University officials amid a slew of reports of sexual assaults at the school.

A new Title IX lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan claims EMU covered up and was deliberately indifferent to sexual assaults, leaving the women vulnerable to sex assaults they endured at fraternity houses. The lawsuit also names six alleged assailants, including a man newly identified through the lawsuit as facing criminal charges, and says over 30 women have come forward about sex assaults at the university.

It comes two months after 11 women, who share lawyers with the eight in Wednesday’s filing, filed a similar lawsuit alleging school officials and fraternity members covered up and failed to adequately address sexual assaults by multiple male students.

The school has previously called allegations of a cover-up “false.”

The new filing incorporates that prior lawsuit, adds new claims, and seemingly seeks to address arguments made in EMU’s legal response filed last week in the first lawsuit.

The new lawsuit also accuses:

  • Former Title IX coordinator Melody Werner of allowing an accused man to view a draft of a Title IX investigator’s report via email, but making the woman reportee travel out of her state to see it.
  • Werner of telling a woman that a fraternity would back her reported rapist, and that man of raping another woman less than a month later. Werner was accused of such a statement in the prior lawsuit, too.
  • Sorority members of Sigma Kappa of hazing a pledge — forcing her to drink — while she was underage, making her vulnerable, and then one is said to have left the room as a fraternity brother started to rape the woman.
  • Delta Tau Delta of playing host to two sexual assaults by two different men in one night.
  • A Theta Chi man of raping two women in one night, and a fraternity brother of breaking down the door to save them.
  • Delta Tau Delta fraternity brothers and graduates Thomas Hernandez and D’Angelo McWilliams, the latter who became a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy, of two additional gang rapes than one previously identified in the prior lawsuit. The men have told police they are innocent. The Free Press previously reported each man is charged criminally with assaulting more than one woman.

Six sexual assaults in the new lawsuit are said to have occurred at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house and two are said to have taken place at Theta Chi.

The prior lawsuit accused Werner of dissuading one woman from reporting her assault to police, an EMU police officer of telling another woman nothing would happen with her report two months after the alleged incident, and the school of retaliation by blocking transcripts for two women.

In its response last week, the school denied statements attributed to Werner and the officer, and reiterated that the transcript issue was a clerical error that has since been resolved. The school has continuously stood by its handling of Title IX cases and has launched an audit of its Title IX office.

The school also last week denied an idea in both lawsuits — that there is a culture of rape at EMU and of victims not being supported.

EMU Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft, in a statement Wednesday, said the school had not yet been served the lawsuit, but supports the “brave survivors who have come forward” and reiterated the school’s stance that personnel work tirelessly to create a safe community.

“The University takes these matters with utmost seriousness,” he said. “There is no place for sexual assault on or off our campus and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent them from happening.”

Werner said she would need to review the allegations before commenting. The national and local chapters of Delta Tau Delta, Theta Chi and Sigma Kappa could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is “gut-wrenching” and there is a crisis with these incidents happening at EMU, and universities across the country, said Todd Flood, the ex-Flint water crisis special prosecutor now representing the women.

In his case, the number of women are staggering and continue to grow, he said. The women are “survivors” who will eventually get some closure, but serious harm was done to them.

“The trauma that these women have had to endure, the scars that they’ve had to heal – it has been difficult … This is something, unless you’re on the front lines or understand what this type of trauma presents, I don’t think the average person can fully comprehend it, for what these women go through,” he said.

The women, as a result of the entities’ failures, endured suffering including thoughts of suicide, drops in grades, post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.

The new filing differs from the 11-women lawsuit not only in terms of new accusations and new reporting victims but defendants as well.

The new filing names the EMU Board of Regents, but it also names Werner, EMU Police Chief Robert Heighes and former Deputy Police Chief Daniel Karrick in their individual and official capacities, an apparent response to the three’s legal response last week in which they claimed immunity in the first lawsuit. The first only sued the individuals intheir official capacities.

The new filing also switched out a few other defendants – adding former Greek Life and leadership development coordinator Kyle Martin, who could not immediately be reached for comment, and naming the local and national chapters of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Sigma Kappa sorority, and the Theta Chi fraternity.

The first lawsuit named the local and national chapters of Delta Tau Delta and Alpha Sigma Phi, the latter of which has reported expelling a man accused in court of sexually assaulting nine women.

The new lawsuit also accuses sorority members of Sigma Kappa of hazing – a crime under Michigan law.

The new lawsuit levies accusations of Title IX and civil rights violations, sex discrimination, exposing the women to state-created danger, violation of bodily autonomy, gross negligence, social host liability and violation of the anti-hazing stature, among other charges.

As did the lawsuit before it, it seeks a judgment in excess of $75,000, jointly and severally, against the entities and officials.

Both lawsuits come amid a Detroit Free Press investigation into the school’s knowledge of allegations of sexual assaults on its students.

The Free Press investigation found that EMU’s Title IX office had received a report against the former Alpha Sigma Phi member, Dustyn Durbin, in 2018 alleging he had multiple victims.

The university said they could not act because the report was anonymous; three of the reported assaults occurred after that Title IX filing. Durbin, who told police last year he was innocent, is currently weighing an offer to avoid trial and take a 15 to 30-year prison sentence.

The Free Press investigation also found that McWilliams, the accused deputy, told police that Werner told him back when he was a student in 2018 that a gang rape accusation against him didn’t sound like something he would do and cleared him. Werner denied this.

The woman in the Hernandez-McWilliams case told police that back in 2018 Werner told her there was “no point” in reporting her assault and that police wouldn’t believe her.

Werner has vehemently denied the accusations by both McWilliams and the woman. EMU has stood by Werner and she and EMU have both said the woman in the case did not wish to proceed with an investigation.