(Photo by Julie O’Donoghue)
At a state court hearing in Baton Rouge Monday, LSU attorneys repeatedly objected to former college football standout Derrius Guice being brought up by name. They insisted on referring to Guice as “the accused”.
But that didn’t stop Samantha Brennan from using Guice’s full name when she was asked who she reported to campus police in July 2016. Brennan, then a LSU student, went to university police about a nude photograph that was circulating of her in the athletics department. She said Guice had likely taken the picture and that it was taken without her consent.
Now, Brennan and the newspaper USA Today are suing LSU to get a fully transparent copy of that police report she filed four years ago. After weeks of asking for it, Brennan received a version last week — but only one where her name, Guice’s name and witness Luke Dudley’s name were blacked out.
She is asking the court to grant her access to the unredacted report and to require LSU to cover her attorneys fees. Judge Janice Clark is overseeing the case, but isn’t expected to issue a ruling until next week at the earliest.
Whether LSU wants to keep the names under wraps is not of much consequence at this point. Brennan went public with her version of the story in a USA Today investigation of sexual misconduct at LSU published last week. She’s also spoken publicly about her allegations against Guice several times since then.
Nevertheless, LSU attorneys argued the university couldn’t release the report that included the participants’ name because of a right to privacy guaranteed in Louisiana’s state constitution. They said that because Brennan didn’t want to pursue criminal charges — and Guice was never arrested — the names of the people involved in the complaint should remain secret.
“The students’ privacy rights are first and foremost,” said LSU attorney Johanna Posada in court Monday. “It is not a right we have the liberty to violate.”
Brennan actually filed her lawsuit earlier this month before she received any copy of the police report — even one with redactions.
LSU had refused to release any version of the report earlier this year, arguing that it needed to be kept under wraps because criminal charges were still a possibility. The university only ended up giving up the records to Brennan after she assured LSU officials she wasn’t interested in pursuing prosecution.
The LSU police department had planned to keep the records private for the six years following her report of the alleged incident. That’s how long prosecution of it could take place under state law.
LSU police department Major Marshall Walters said it is standard for LSU to refuse to release all police records on a particular complaint until the prescriptive period for taking criminal action expires. But Brennan’s attorney, Scott Sternberg, argued that is an arbitrary standard, and one that isn’t legally binding. The law requires that records be held back for a “reasonable” amount of time — not a period of several years.
Brennan appeared to file the lawsuit in part out of frustration. She said she had to call the police department several times before she was able to get them to agree to send her a copy of her report. At a certain point, she thought one woman in the police department was actively avoiding her calls and emails about the matter. They also required her to send the department a check of $5 through the mail before they would hand over any information. When she finally got a response, it wasn’t the full report she was seeking. The police then told her she had to go to a different agency — the university’s legal department — to request what she wanted, she said.
In September, Brennan also said Posada — an LSU attorney in the aforementioned legal department — told her she would need a subpoena in order to get what she wanted. Then, she ended up receiving the records she had been seeking — albeit with redactions — in October, after she was featured in the USA Today story that ran nationwide.
“I was very frustrated I had to follow up so many times,” Brennan testified in court Monday. She said LSU had stonewalled her.
LSU countered that Brennan did not have to wait an unreasonable amount of time — about three days — before she got an initial response from the police department. The LSU attorneys said it made sense that Brennan couldn’t get access to the records for several weeks because the university was under the impression she might still want to pursue criminal charges. Plus, victims don’t have greater access to public records about their allegations than the rest of the public under the law, they said.
But LSU has a reputation for taking a conservative approach to public records — often leaning on student privacy as the reason for not releasing information. Brennan wasn’t the only victim who wanted copies of a campus police report related to sexual misconduct either, according to USA Today. The newspaper reported that public safety records readily available elsewhere have been kept a secret at LSU.
Brennan is also not alone in accusing Guice of sexual misconduct. Two other women have said he raped them while he was on LSU’s football team, according to USA Today. A former Sports Illustrated reporter — a woman — also said he threatened her while she was writing a feature story about him at LSU.
Guice also recently lost his place on the Washington Football Team after being charged with multiple counts of domestic violence.
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