MOSCOW, Idaho — Warning: Details in the lawsuit contain graphic content
A former University of Idaho student has filed a federal lawsuit against the school for the handling of sexual assault claims that resulted in the firing of Athletic Director Rob Spear.
The complaint was filed Wednesday by the law firm Randall Danskin in U.S. District court. The suit demands a trial by jury and an award of costs and attorney fees that the court deems reasonable.
In the complaint, the victim said she was sexually assaulted by University of Idaho football player Jahrie Level on April 21, 2013 at a location off campus.
The complaint alleges the victim, along with at least two other women, reported Level's inappropriate behavior to school leadership but the school never investigated the allegations. According to court documents, the victim said the school initially declined to investigate because the assault happened off campus, despite the school's legal obligation to investigate under Title IX.
The complaint details three women's accusations against Level, starting in 2012.
Court documents said Level was cited in 2012 for providing alcohol to some underage students. In that case, documents said one of those students had bruising on her neck and knee, and scratches on her back.
No other charges were filed but that student reported the incident to the university's Dean of Students Office. Court documents said Athletic Director Rob Spear and former interim football coach Jason Gesser were never informed of the 2012 incident. Gesser is also facing allegations of sexual misconduct during his time as Washington State University Athletic Fund assistant director. The complaint said the school did not investigate that incident and did not take action against Level.
Then, on April 1, 2013, the lawsuit said Level introduced himself to the victim outside the computer lab in the Kibbie Dome and said to her, “Do you want to f*** with a baller, baby?”
The victim did not give Level her name and told him she was not interested. Court documents said Assistant Football Coach Kevin Small witnessed the incident and commented, "Rejected.”
The suit said Level did the same thing a week later, and again the victim told him she was not interested and he was being disrespectful.
Court documents also said that a few hours later he had threatened to slap another female student because she declined an invitation to a barbecue. The female student reported the incident to Head Football Coach Paul Petrino, the complaint said.
According to court documents, the female student felt that Petrino “clearly didn’t care.” After the incident was reported, the complaint says that the school, Petrino, other football coaches and Track Coach Wayne Phipps again did nothing to stop Level.
Then on April 21, 2013, the victim went to CJ’s Nightclub with friends. Level was also at the nightclub but the victim was not aware of his presence, the complaint said.
According to court documents, Level approached the victim around 2 a.m. and "put his fingers up her skirt rubbing them from the front of her underwear all the way to her butt."
The victim said she immediately turned around to slap Level away, and told him he was disrespectful and was not allowed to touch her like that.
On April 23, 2013, the victim reported the incident to Susan Steele, the Athletics Academic Coordinator for the swimming and diving team. The victim told Steele she did not feel safe around Level and she needed him gone. Steele called the Moscow Police.
A police lieutenant told the victim that she could handle the sexual assault through the criminal justice center or through the University Athletic Department. The complaint said Moscow Police reported the incident to Petrino and Spear. The complaint said neither Petrino nor Spear reported the allegations to the Dean of Students.
After that, on April 25, the victim met with Spear, Steele and Moscow Police to talk about the incident and provided other details of the interactions they had. The complaint says the victim was told the school could not investigate the assault because it happened off campus. The university has since acknowledged this was incorrect and they had an obligation to investigate under Title IX.
According to the complaint, Spear and Petrino told the victim that Level would be required to go to counseling and check in twice daily with Petrino. Spear told the victim to tell her friends about Level’s assault and to “watch out for him,” the lawsuit claims.
Petrino then allegedly justified Level's assault by claiming Level did not have the same “upbringing” as her, the suit said. The victim said in the complaint that she was not offered any sympathy, an apology or any counseling options.
The complaint said the incident was also reported to former University of Idaho President Duane Nellis and Swimming and Diving Coach Mark Sowa and they too did not report it to the Dean of Students.
On April 27, 2013, the complaint said the victim’s parents emailed Spear about the incident and their concern for their daughter’s safety. According to the complaint, Level also posted a photo on Instagram that day where he was holding a gun at a shooting range, which the family said added to their concern about their daughter's safety.
The complaint said on April 29, 2013, Moscow Police interviewed Level about the sexual assault and he said the touching was an accident.
On May 2, 2013, the complaint said Spear responded to the victim’s parents’ email. Spear told them the university and Petrino were “protecting a football player,” the lawsuit stated. Also, in his emailed response, Spear claimed Level was “not a threat” and later contradicted himself, telling Petrino he “did not want him around female athletes.”
The victim said she eventually started going to counseling and her counselor told her to go to the Women’s Center at the university. According to the complaint, the victim told her sexual assault story to the director of the center on May 3, 2013. The director helped the victim by taking her to the Dean of Students and forcing the school to investigate the sexual assault, the lawsuit said. The victim said she sent an email to the Dean of Students with her police statement and the email exchange between her parents and Spear, the complaint said.
On May 8, 2013, the victim and her mother met with Moscow Police to pursue criminal charges against Level, according to the lawsuit. The next day, the complaint says, Moscow Police located surveillance video of the sexual assault. In the video, Level was seen chest-bumping, laughing and shaking hands with his football teammate after the assault, the lawsuit states.
Moscow Police decided to charge Level with misdemeanor battery. Level was dismissed from the football team on May 9, 2013, according to the complaint. On May 11, 2013, the victim was made aware of the surveillance video but was not told that Level had been dismissed from the football team, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint said the University Judicial Council completed the case against Level. The case included seven violations of the Student Code of Conduct with five of those counts involving the sexual assault and harassment of the victim, the lawsuit explained. The UJC recommended that the school reach out to Level’s new school with its findings but the school failed to do so, the complaint said.
Nearly five years later, on Feb. 13, 2018, Spear emailed the victim and acknowledged that he had violated Title IX and admitted he should have known about the university’s policy, according to the lawsuit. By April 3, Spear was put on administrative leave for 60 days. The Associated Students of the University of Idaho had multiple meetings called for his resignation or removal from the university. Ultimately, the Board of Education voted to fire Spear in August.
The complaint said the university violated Title IX through discrimination on the basis of gender/hostile educational environment. It also claims that the school was negligent and caused the intentional infliction of emotional distress to the victim.