University in New Jersey Settles for $800K in Suit Over Rape Allegations

March 7, 2019

The estate of a William Paterson University student who took her own life after alleging she was raped at a fraternity has settled a lawsuit against the school for $800,000.

Cherelle Locklear’s mother alleged in the lawsuit that the university failed to adequately investigate the rape claims in 2015 and didn’t question or discipline her alleged attacker.

A judge filed notice in January that a settlement had been reached, and a formal court order was entered Monday.

“We believe that this suit is but one of, unfortunately, many involving sex assault on college campuses,” Bradley Rice, an attorney representing the estate, said Tuesday. “It’s one step forward in trying to bring better awareness and heightened scrutiny to the institutions that are meant to protect our best and brightest.”

In a statement, the university said, “the legal matter that commenced after the tragic death of Cherelle Locklear has now been resolved by an agreement that is acceptable to all parties and with no admission of wrongdoing or liability by the University.”

The alleged rape occurred at the Sigma Pi fraternity in September 2015. After a suicide attempt in mid-October, Locklear notified a university victims’ service coordinator.

According to the lawsuit, the coordinator wasn’t reported to campus police until November. The suit claimed police then “utterly failed to perform an appropriate and thorough investigation.”

Locklear hung herself in a dormitory bathroom in November 2015.

The lawsuit alleged negligence, infliction of emotional distress and a violation of Title IX, the federal law protecting people at institutions receiving federal funds. It claimed the university had a duty to offer Locklear counseling, issue a “no contact” order to the alleged attacker and take disciplinary action.

Rice said a separate, confidential settlement was reached with the Theta Tau chapter of Sigma Pi fraternity. An attorney representing the fraternity didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.

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