Thursday, September 20, 2018
Education

USF fraternity hit with lawsuit alleging sexual assault of teen at party

TAMPA — A teenager is suing a University of South Florida fraternity and its national body, alleging that one of its members sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious at a party.

The plaintiff, who was 16 at the time of the alleged assault, joined with her parents and attorney Herman Law to file the suit in Hillsborough County last week. They are seeking $5 million in damages, as well as court costs and a jury trial.

The teenager, a Pinellas County resident identified only as Jane Doe No. 72, says Pi Kappa Phi member Dillon LaGamma, 19, raped her after she was encouraged to drink to the point of becoming unresponsive. She says she woke up in the hospital the next morning.

In the lawsuit, the girl says she visited USF's campus last October with her two older sisters. They learned Pi Kappa Phi was throwing a party. Fraternity members seemed to be checking IDs outside of the house in Greek Village, but they told the sisters they were just "making it look like they were checking IDs so they didn't get in trouble," the lawsuit states.

Inside, the teen was given a pre-poured mixed drink that was the first of many, the lawsuit says, "without anyone questioning her age or level of inebriation." She was pressured to drink a "slap bag" filled with alcohol, the lawsuit states, and became dangerously drunk, incoherent and barely able to stand.

That's when LaGamma took her into a room, the suit says. She couldn't consent due to her age and level of inebriation, yet LaGamma had sex with her "unconscious body," the lawsuit states.

Another fraternity member eventually came across the girl, who had blacked out, and had her sent to the hospital. The teen says the next thing she remembers is waking up in blood-soaked clothes.

The next day, the police received a call from the hospital reporting an assault. LaGamma was arrested, and USF's Pi Kappa Phi chapter was suspended.

The national Pi Kappa Phi organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the LaGamma family.

LaGamma of Plantation is no longer enrolled at the university. He was released on bail the day after his booking. He faces a charge of sexual battery on a victim older than 12 but younger than 18.

This spring, USF's Pi Kappa Phi chapter moved from suspension to probation after it re-examined its procedures for managing risk. It still can't host any social events with alcohol until late 2017, and all of its current social events have to be cleared by USF officials.

It will remain on probation through spring 2018. According to the national website, USF's chapter has 40 members.

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Claire McNeill at [email protected]bay.com.

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