Lawyer for Duke Lacrosse Players Sues College on Behalf of Sex Assault Victim

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By Emily Zanotti | 2:55 pm, August 22, 2016

The lawyer who defended the Duke Lacrosse team from allegations of rape a decade ago has switched sides in a new lawsuit against the North Carolina school.

Bob Ekstrand is suing Duke on behalf of a former student,  Ariana Qayumi, who says that Duke University failed to adequately investigate her claim that two fellow students drugged and raped her.

According to the lawsuit, Qayumi’s attackers, Colby Leachman and Brian Self, had already been reported to the school administration for a series of “drug-facilitated” sexual assaults when they raped her. Ekstrand said in his complaint that Qayumi complained to school authorities, but was never told that she was one of several victims of the accused. The lawyer claims the University declined to pursue a serious investigation because Leachman is Duke Provost’s Peter Lange’s step-son.

Qayumi and her lawyers also claim that Duke assigned Dr. Celia Irvine to investigate her case, but that Irvine “concealed evidence” of the serial sexual assaults in order to protect the students. Leachman was eventually placed on probation.

An independent police investigator says Leachman was guilty of a felony, and could face additional charges for lying to police about evidence. When questioned by police at the time, he told investigators he had no record of Qayumi’s sexual assault and neglected to mention a video of the incident on his phone.

Ultimately, Ekstrand and his client are claiming that Duke took pains to protect a student near and dear to the school’s administration, and that despite high-profile cases in the past (including Ekstrand’s Duke lacrosse case), Duke still hasn’t figured out how to competently handle allegations of sexual assault.

Despite the high-profile defection, it doesn’t appear that Ekstrand has suddenly become a crusader for sexual assault victims on campus. Rather, his concern seems to be that no one at Duke is getting a fair shake. Dr. Celia Irvine, cited in Ekstrand’s case, has been the subject of litigation before – by a student who claims he was wrongfully expelled after Irvine failed to investigate sexual assault claims against him, siding with the victim and giving him no opportunity to introduce “neutral witnesses,” or officially question Irvine’s findings.

Duke is one of several schools that employ the Department of Education-suggested lower  “preponderance of the evidence” standard when it comes to sexual assault on college campuses. Even so, it seems — according to Elkstrand’s allegations — the school is willing to make exceptions.

A hearing on Ekstrand’s and Qayumi’s case will be scheduled for later this fall.