Another lawsuit is returning scrutiny to how Utah State University responds to sexual assault and concerns about how cases are handled, after years of controversy at the school and a blistering report from the Department of Justice that demanded reform in 2020.
Former football player Patrick Maddox alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the university retaliated against him when he tried to expose attitudes toward victims on the northern Utah campus.
What the player’s lawsuit claims
Maddox says he faced threats and retaliation starting in December 2021 after sharing recordings of the head coach and the university police chief making derogatory comments about women who had been sexually assaulted.
• The player says he hoped the recordings would show the concerning attitudes that were often shared with the team, where players also frequently made jokes on the subject.
• But, Maddox says, after sharing those he experienced threats of violence from his teammates, having his gear stolen and destroyed and being made to apologize to the team by head coach Blake Anderson. Maddox also said Anderson allegedly told the team that Maddox “made a mistake,” and they could punish him however they “saw fit.”
• When he tried to report the hostilities, Maddox said he was ignored or told he deserved it. And so he felt he had no other choice but to leave the team this spring for fear of his safety.
Those recordings were first revealed in another lawsuit filed last year
Student Kaytriauna Flint alleged in her lawsuit filed in December 2021 that the university continues to protect its football players against claims of sexual assault.
Flint accused a USU football player of sexually assaulting her in 2019. Her lawsuit says the school misled her about what Title IX law required from her.
Her lawsuit also referred to the damning recorded statements USU Police Chief Earl Morris made to the school’s football players in August 2021. The Tribune obtained a copy of those recordings.
• Morris warned the players to make sure that when they have sex that it’s consensual — especially if they are with women who are Latter-day Saints. He said LDS women will often tell their bishop that sex was nonconsensual because it’s “easier.” They might be “feeling regret,” he continued, for having sex before marriage, which goes against the faith’s teachings of abstinence, so they’ll say it was assault.
• Flint’s lawsuit referred to a second recording, in which USU football coach Anderson told the team that it “has never been more glamorized to be a victim” and that the football team was a “target to some.
• In a statement about the recordings, USU said the comments made “are not consistent with the university’s trainings.” USU said it “has made a great deal of progress in our sexual misconduct prevention and response efforts over the last five years,” while noting that cultural change takes time.
• In October 2022, Flint agreed to settle her case. She dropped her lawsuit against the school in exchange for $500,000.
The case of Torrey Green
USU football player Torrey Green was convicted in 2019 of sexually assaulting six women while he was a student at the Logan school.
• Four women told Logan police in 2015 that they had been assaulted by Green, but no charges were filed until prosecutors reexamined their cases after The Tribune published an investigative report about their claims. Prosecutors said in court papers that 19 women in total came forward with similar allegations, and the trial involved six of those women.
• The Department of Justice, which investigated USU after Green’s convictions, said its investigators found it was common for USU to close incident files involving football players after “only minimal investigation.”
• Green is now asking for a new trial.
Assaults by USU fraternity members
The DOJ report also detailed mishandled reports involving USU’s Greek system.
• Former USU student Victoria Hewlett sued the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault allegations from her and multiple other women involving then-Sigma Chi fraternity member Jason Relopez. The lawsuit claimed that five women had reported to the school that Relopez sexually assaulted them before Hewlett’s attack in 2015. The school said Relopez had been on its “radar” but denied receiving five previous assault reports.
• Relopez was sentenced in 2016 to a year in jail for attempted rape and attempted forcible sex abuse, and as part of his plea deal, admitted raping Hewlett and another USU student.
• Her suit also alleged USU mishandled similar reports involving Ryan Wray, then-president of Pi Kappa Alpha, which is around the corner from Sigma Chi. Prosecutors said Wray inappropriately touched a woman at the fraternity in 2014, while he was assigned to keep watch over incapacitated partygoers. He pleaded guilty to attempted forcible sex abuse and was sentenced to six months in jail.
• Hewlett accepted a $250,000 settlement in 2018 that required the school to increase its oversight of its Greek system.
An abusive piano department
The DOJ report also mentioned USU’s investigation into its piano department, noting that those who came forward with years-old complaints in 2018 did not know where to report discrimination during their time at USU.
• An investigator hired by USU found students had endured a “pervasive culture” of sexism, a “disturbing” pattern of sexual violence and psychological abuse by faculty.
• Administrators had done little to address that culture amid multiple students allegations of mistreatment by faculty as recently as 2017, a report said. That included a student alleging she was raped by a teacher in 2009.
A settlement with DOJ
USU settled the federal investigation by agreeing to improve its response in the future. At the time, USU President Noelle Cockett said the school would promptly respond to accusations moving forward and “should have done better.”
Editor’s note • The Tribune generally does not identify sexual assault victims; the women identified in this story agreed to the use of their names.