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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Baylor coach Art Briles says he didn’t cover up sexual violence by his players or try to obstruct any investigations in the scandal at the nation’s largest Baptist university.
Briles, who was fired in May 2016, released a one-page letter Thursday defending himself against allegations that he ignored incidents of assault and operated a program that considered itself above the rules.
Briles insists that when alerted to incidents his response was that victims should report details to the police.
Briles’ letter was issued one day after the Texas Rangers, the state’s top criminal investigations unit, said it had opened a preliminary investigation into how Baylor handled assault allegations over several years.
Baylor faces several federal lawsuits from women who say their assault claims were ignored or mishandled.
In February, Briles dropped the defamation lawsuit filed against four university officials he accused of making false statements against him, according to attorneys in the case.
Briles in December sued the three regents and a university vice president for libel and slander, claiming they falsely stated that he knew of reported assaults and alleged gang rapes by players and didn’t report them.
The Pepper Hamilton firm determined Briles’ program acted as if it was “above the rules” and that unnamed members of Briles’ staff had improper contact with victims or witnesses and may have interfered with investigations.
Baylor officials say that investigation found at least 17 women who reported being sexually assaulted by 19 football players, but one lawsuit claiming Baylor fostered a “culture of sexual violence” puts the number at more than 50 acts of rape over a four-year period.
To date, only two of Briles’ former players have been tried and convicted of sexual assault, and another is currently charged in a 2016 assault.
“It’s hard to take any of Baylor’s former coaches seriously at this point. We’re going to find out for ourselves what happened and who deserves further consequences,” said John Clune, attorney for a woman who is suing Baylor under the pseudonym Elizabeth Doe.
Irwin Zalkin, attorney for Jasmin Hernandez, who was sexually assaulted by football player Tevin Elliott, said Briles would have to be “deaf, blind and dumb” to have not known about previous allegations involving Elliott.
Briles never met with Hernandez and he refused her family’s efforts to engage with him, Zalkin said. The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify sexual assault victims, but Hernandez has spoken publicly to draw attention to the case.
Baylor officials last month revealed selected text messages between Briles, assistant coaches and staff members that appear to show them trying to shield players from police and university discipline.
In one instance, when shown a list of names of players a woman said attacked her, Briles allegedly responded: “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?”
Briles called for “full disclosure” of what the Pepper Hamilton investigation found. A group of wealthy and powerful Baylor alumni called Bears for Leadership Reform, which includes many Briles supporters, has also called on Baylor’s Board of Regents to publicly release the Pepper Hamilton investigation in full.
“(R)umor, innuendo and out of context messages, emails and comments have no place in a true fact-finding mission,” Briles wrote Thursday. “The key to growth for the school begins with full transparence, not selective messaging.”
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told The Dallas Morning News his office “months ago” requested interviews and documents collected in the Pepper Hamilton investigation. Reyna did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.
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