| Courts |

Another Student Is Suing SMU Over its Handling of an Alleged Sexual Assault

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

An SMU freshman who accused a well-known fraternity brother of sexually assaulted him is now suing the school, saying it violated Title IX by acting "deliberately indifferent" to his report of sexual assault and to prior sexual harassment by his alleged assailant, John David Mahaffey.

See also: Another SMU Student Has Been Arrested for Sexual Assault

The alleged incident happened in September 2012, when the student told police that Maheffey, a fourth-generation SMU student and prestigious Hunt scholar, coerced him into the oral sex by threatening him to block him from Sigma Phi Epsilon and with the loss of his own Hunt Leadership scholarship. The next day, SMU police recorded a phone conversation between the student and Mahaffey.

"You know I did not want to do that," the student told Mahaffey, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

"I know you didn't," Mahaffey is said to have replied. "But we have to say it was consensual or lawyers, parents, and the school will be involved."

The following March, the Dallas County District Attorney dropped the case, saying it no longer had enough evidence to pursue the case. Sigma Phi Epsilon was suspended in the wake of the allegations.

See also: Prosecutors Drop Case Against John David Mahaffey, SMU Student Accused of Rape

The suit, filed in federal court today, again asserts that the sex was not consensual. It also claims that the university knew of similar incident involving Mahaffey and a female student on a SMU-sponsored Hunt scholars trip to Taos, New Mexico.

The student also accuses SMU of failing to remove identifying information about him from a crime alert sent out after the post-party incidents, and claims Linda Eads, SMU's assistant provost, discouraged him from cooperating with police and insisted that he allow the provost to handle the matter in house. In the aftermath of the incidents, Eads sent an email to the Hunt scholars, including Mahaffey and the alleged victim, outlining her concerns for Mahaffey but not the alleged victim, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged victim subsequently quit the Hunt scholars and SMU as a result of the climate at the university and its failure to protect him, the suit claims. He is seeking damages for physical, emotional, psychological, educational, professional and economic harm caused to him by SMU, as well as past and future medical/psychological care, past and future mental anguish, past and future loss of enjoyment of life, future loss of earnings/capacity, loss of tuition and related expenses, past and future educational costs and damages for deprivation of access to the educational opportunities and benefits provided by SMU.

This is the second pending lawsuit against SMU over allegations that it mishandled a sexual assault allegation. In that case, the victim claims in court records that the school knew about a previous incident involving her alleged attacker and failed to investigate.

SMU declined to comment. The alleged victim's attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.