Jane Doe case update: proceeding to trial

A $10 million lawsuit was filed against Virginia Wesleyan College in 2014 by a former student identified as Jane Doe for the alleged mishandling of her sexual assault case. The alleged assault happened during the fall of 2012 and received review by Virginia Wesleyan College’s Community Arbitration Board on Feb. 13, 2013. Now, approximately four years after the alleged assault, the case is going to trial and will be heard by the Honorable Judge David W. Lannetti of the Norfolk Circuit Court. Executive Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, Laynee Timlin said the trial is scheduled to take place in May.

In her accusations of the mishandling of her case, Doe cites the change to the alleged perpetrator’s transcript as her reason for the lawsuit, according to The Huffington Post. Virginia Wesleyan College enabled the defendant possible entry to another institution by changing his transcript from “expelled” to “voluntarily withdrawn,” according to a letter sent from David E. Buckingham Dean Emeritus and former Vice President for Student Affairs. The defendant is identified as Robert Roe in court documents.

Buckingham led the original Title IX hearing on campus and informed Doe of the change to Roe’s transcript by letter. Timlin indicated that numerous people on both sides are involved in the trial.

“Robert Roe received a change in his sanction and I alerted her (Jane Doe) to that fact. I also said to her that the findings, which I was involved with as a member of the appeal committee, did not change. The findings were that, that individual violated college policy and specifically the alcohol policy and physical contact of a sexual nature. As a consequence, we are not changing the fact that he could no longer be here and that he was never to come back. That didn’t change,” Buckingham said in a 2015 Marlin Chronicle interview, regarding the letter sent to Doe.

Students, faculty and staff were notified of the pending lawsuit in an email dated October 2014 by Buckingham and received a follow-up email a month later from Leona Baker, director of marketing and communications at Virginia Wesleyan College.

Baker’s email included a link to a list of news briefs on the school’s website as they pertain to the allegations made by the media’s coverage of the Jane Doe lawsuit against the college.

The news brief list concluded with “Virginia Wesleyan College continues to be the caring and responsible place we have always been. The College realizes that campus resources and all of our efforts do not guarantee immunity from the very serious issue of sexual assault on college campuses as it reflects the greater problem in society in general. However, we hope that by addressing this issue together, as a community, we can make continual improvements to reduce this risk.”

Since notifying the campus community of the lawsuit against the school and the potential media coverage that the case could receive, many media outlets have covered the incident and its updates.

Doe told the Huffington Post that following the incident she lacks an ability to have sex, lacks interest in having sex and has difficulties engaging in romantic relationships. In light of these statements, Virginia Wesleyan College requested that Doe provide a complete record of her sexual history and names of her boyfriends since August 2012.

A news release dated Aug. 12, 2015 from the college’s legal counsel, Sinnott Nuckols & Logan, PC Attorneys at Law, said “Regarding our requests for information about Jane Doe’s relationships, we want to be clear that we have no intention of arguing Jane Doe is of unchaste character and therefore must have done something wrong.”

The news release also states that such information was warranted under the discovery process. “The basis for the request was that Jane Doe has made various claims for monetary damages related in part to her failed relationships.”

“The College is limited in its ability to disclose information related to the case given ongoing litigation. The College continues to deny any wrongdoing on the part of the institution and is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for the campus community,” Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Moore said.

Buckingham said in the 2015 interview that students would be notified of the outcome of the case as soon as a decision was made.

He declined to comment on the impending trial when contacted by email.

Many current and past school officials refused to offer additional information on the case since litigation is still in process.

Courtney Herrick and Ashley Kline