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FAYETTEVILLE -- A lawsuit filed Friday claims Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity should be held responsible for sexually explicit photographs taken without consent and then distributed to an email network for University of Arkansas fraternity members.

The woman suing the national organization -- Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Inc. -- and the UA fraternity chapter -- Gamma Chi Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha -- remains anonymous in the lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court. Court documents state the allegations by "Jane Doe" are "of a highly sensitive and personal matter" and there "is a high risk of retaliatory harm."

The lawsuit refers to sexually explicit photographs taken at a Feb. 28, 2017, party, with a cellphone used by an unnamed "Picture Pledge" to photograph sexual activity in a locked bathroom stall involving the woman and an unnamed fraternity associate member.

The date and reference to a bathroom stall match a separate criminal case now in a one-year "diversion period." University of Arkansas student Garrett Wolff will avoid trial on a misdemeanor video voyeurism charge if he meets requirements that include 100 hours of community service.

The lawsuit doesn't refer to Wolff or any fraternity members by name but lays out allegations other fraternity members encouraged the "Picture Pledge" to take the sexually explicit pictures and then share them.

At the fraternity's red-brick house, members declined to comment Friday evening.

Email and phone messages weren't returned by Tad Lichtenauer, communications director for the Carmel, Ind.-based national organization.

The lawsuit describes a Mardi Gras party attended by roughly 300 people.

"A crowd of people, members and non-members alike, converged in the bathroom as Jane Doe and the Associate Member were locked in the bathroom stall," the lawsuit states, adding many "are believed to have taken photographs and video."

The lawsuit states the "Picture Pledge" was one of several pledges with tasks, though the lawsuit also notes fraternity members denied to the university there was such a thing as a "Picture Pledge." The lawsuit faults the fraternity for inaction in having "failed to implement enforcement policies and procedures that ensured compliance with their stated rules prohibiting hazing."

The "Picture Pledge," according to the lawsuit, "reached his phone over the locked stall door and, without the consent or knowledge of Jane Doe took multiple photographs of Jane Doe and the Associate Member engaged in explicit sexual conduct."

Later, after the photos were distributed to the "Arkansas LCA Gmail list-serv," the "Arkansas LCA President," according to the lawsuit, sent a message: "This picture is not to be sent to your friends or to get out on social media at all. Period."

The lawsuit states the president "did not inform the members to delete the email chain or photos; nor did he instruct them to cease the internal derogatory commentary being made."

The lawsuit refers to "Picture Pledge" statements a member told him to take pictures of the sexual activity and he was told to upload and send out the pictures.

"At least two members pressured him to send out the photos," the lawsuit states, and the fraternity's "Risk Manager had told the Picture Pledge to send out the photos."

UA investigated the fraternity, and the lawsuit claims that an internal report by the fraternity chapter "is inconsistent with the events as evidenced in the inquiry conducted by the University."

UA spokesman Mark Rushing in an email said it would be inappropriate for the university to comment on the lawsuit.

"The University of Arkansas places great importance on the well-being of our students and strives to promote a respectful environment," Rushing said.

The university's investigation found the organization not responsible for sexual harassment and, upon appeal, not responsible for hazing.

UA, however, did find the fraternity responsible for disorderly conduct, serving alcohol to those underage, failing to register a social function as required by school policy, and "conduct which encourages or enables illegal activity and/or a violation of the Code of Student Life."

Sanctions included a ban on social events until mid-December last year and a prohibition on alcohol until May 13. Upon appeal, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Robinson reversed a sanction that would have removed the fraternity from its chapter house.

The lawsuit also names Lambda Chi Alpha Corporation of Fayetteville, Arkansas and Lambda Chi Alpha Properties, Inc. as defendants.

The lawsuit states Jane Doe has lost educational opportunity, self-esteem and reputation, among other damages. It asks for unspecified damages and punitive damages " if warranted and appropriate."

Jane Doe is being represented by Rogers-based attorney George Rozzell with the law firm Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider & Pawlik.

NW News on 02/24/2018

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