What if senate select committee subpoenas LSU officials, including football coach Ed Orgeron?
BATON ROUGE - Last week, LSU lead attorney Winston DeCuir Jr. made sure all 10 LSU employees and officials requested to appear before a senate committee to answer questions about the ongoing sexual misconduct scandal investigations did not attend.
The seven-member committee on Thursday wanted to ask football coach Ed Orgeron, athletic director Scott Woodward and eight others associated with LSU about the handling of sexual misconduct accusations against football players in recent years.
Since football office employee Sharon Lewis announced a $50 million lawsuit against LSU before the hearing for retaliation against her for reporting sexual harassment by former coach Les Miles, DeCuir said he could not have the 10 LSU personnel requested testify in person. Instead, each wrote letters of testimony.
"It's just not a risk we can take after a person announces a massive, civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) lawsuit in federal court against the university," he said. "And this is a serious lawsuit - a RICO suit combined with allegations of discrimination and Title IX retaliation. It's going to be a messy affair."
As a result, DeCuir was the only LSU person available for questions at the State Senate Select Committee on Women and Children hearing. But if the committee decides to subpoena Orgeron, Woodward, et al, the committee's next hearing will be more crowded.
"This committee has subpoena power, and we are considering that," said Sen. Regina Barrow, who is the committee chairperson.
"If the committee subpoenas university employees who may be witnesses in the Lewis lawsuit, we'll have to deal with it when we see the subpoenas," DeCuir said. "They (Orgeron, Woodward, other personnel) would have to testify before the committee. It would be a tough situation, but we would have to handle it."
In a subpoena scenario, DeCuir could still instruct his clients not to answer certain questions.
"We would have to consider where we are in the litigation and what they may potentially be asked and how it would impact the litigation," he said. "I would have to advise them on what they could and couldn't cover, given the status of the litigation."
Barrow and members of the committee want answers, and it has not yet been able to ask anyone from LSU, other than DeCuir, any questions.
"It just seemed like a blanket response that no one from the university would testify, even though some are not in the (Lewis) lawsuit," Barrow said.
At the crux of the committee's investigation are former players Derrius Guice (2015-17) and Drake Davis (2016-18). A myriad of accusations of sexual misconduct against each was spelled out in a report released on March 5 by the Husch Blackwell firm that was hired by LSU following a series of USA TODAY investigative stories.
"Despite at least four reports of sexual misconduct during his short tenure with LSU, including two rape accusations, Guice was never put through the University's disciplinary process," the Husch Blackwell report stated. "There are also no records that he was ever notified of these reports or that the University even intervened to provide him some targeted training."
Davis was "accused of abusing at least three female LSU students" while at LSU.
"Ultimately, the most appropriate and effective intervention was Davis needed to be prosecuted and jailed," the Husch Blackwell report said.
LSU associate athletic directors Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar were each suspended for keeping the accusations about the two players quiet. Each was invited to the committee hearing Thursday, but did not attend and sent written testimony instead.
"We view the failure to report (Davis) as a significant error by Ausberry. The failure could have led to catastrophic consequences," the Husch Blackwell report stated.
"Nobody's really taken any action, other than LSU releasing the report," Sen. Karen Peterson said. "Transparency, that's a good first step. But how long do people have to wait until we know that LSU is serious about the consequences when bad behavior occurs? The public expects more. We know some of the people that have committed the bad behavior. Does that behavior rise to the level of dismissal? The common sense of the Louisiana citizens tells us that there was a cover-up at a lot of different levels at LSU."
Peterson is in favor of subpoenas for certain LSU officials.
"They just put you at the table, which I think in and of itself is terrible," she said to DeCuir on Thursday. "That's not fair that they didn't appear. What is happening right now is blatantly unfair at our flagship university with its leadership. We can do better. The public is watching. It's really embarrassing, and we're no longer proud anymore. When people say LSU, you just shake your head."
State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty said LSU's students need to be protected as much as LSU's brand.
"All that's been reported in the press is how LSU is protecting its brand, and there are a lot of attorneys engaged in that pursuit," she said. "We need to make sure that the students are also protected on their end."