Former KSU softball player files new lawsuit against university in sexual assault case

Kent State softball player Lauren Kesterson throws a ball to first base during a during a double header against University of Akron on Saturday, March 30, 2013. 

Kent State softball player Lauren Kesterson throws a ball to first base during a during a double header against University of Akron on Saturday, March 30, 2013. 

Alex Delaney-Gesing

Lauren Kesterson, a former Kent State softball player, filed a second lawsuit Tuesday against Kent State in the Ohio Supreme Court, saying the university failed to produce requested public records detailing the events surrounding her alleged rape.

A media release sent out by the Cleveland-based Chandra Law Firm representing Kesterson through attorney Subodh Chandra, detailed that Kesterson requested the Ohio Supreme Court to order the university to provide public records regarding its handling of her rape report.

Additional records requested include what the lawsuit said were efforts by an employee of the school to suppress that report.  

Kent State released a statement regarding the latest developments in the series of lawsuits:

“Once we have been served with the complaint, we will respond accordingly.”

Kesterson filed a civil lawsuit against Kent State in the U.S. District Court in February, charging that her Title IX rights under the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity, were violated.

Kesterson stated that she was raped by a former student, Tucker Linder, the son of former Kent State softball coach Karen Linder, in December 2012.  

Kesterson’s attorneys previously petitioned the state’s Supreme Court in February to compel the university to produce public documents in relation to the lawsuit.

The original request included three categories of public documents: all personnel files of specific university employees, records regarding Title IX training for Kent State’s softball team and student athlete reviews of Linder from the last five years.

A writ of mandamus action was filed on April 13 asking the court to order Kent State to turn over the requested documents.

The university failed to comply with the order, and filed a request to dismiss the suit; Chandra’s firm responded with a request that it not be dismissed. The case remains open.

“When a public office refuses to provide public records, the requester may ask the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the production,” the Aug. 2 release said.

Chandra spoke on behalf of his client in the release, stating that Kesterson is entitled to the public records being requested:

“The university’s repeated refusals to provide records about its handling of Ms. Kesterson’s rape report and Coach Linder’s departure suggest that the University is determined to cover up the truth,” he said in the media release. “But in Ohio, public records are the people’s records, and the University cannot avoid its obligations under the sunshine laws.”

The original lawsuit states that, after Kesterson notified Karen Linder of the rape, Linder did not follow through with university policy and report the incident.

The suit also alleges that Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen interfered with Kent State’s investigation regarding the situation by not following the university’s sexual assault policy.

The university responded in April by denying many of Kesterson’s claims, and filed a motion in April to dismiss the lawsuit.

Linder also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit held against her.

The Aug. 1 lawsuit states that in response to the April records request, the university’s responses on June 20 were “merely partial and incomplete.”

The university responded that the requests “lack specificity, lack merit,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that the records not yet provided by Kent State “relate to the University’s handling of complaints of gender-based discrimination up to and including the rape of current university students.”

In response, Kesterson’s attorneys wrote a letter on June 29 “explaining how the University’s asserted objections were meritless and requesting a final and complete response by July 13,” the lawsuit states.

Kesterson’s public records request has been pending for 110 days, according to the lawsuit.

As of Aug. 2, the university has not responded.  

Alex Delaney-Gesing is the editor of The Summer Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected].