Former USF football player sues university after rape charges dropped

A University of South Florida football player kicked off the team after he was accused of rape has filed a federal discrimination suit against the university.

Charges against Kevaughn Dingle, 22, were dropped by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office. But Dingle said in the lawsuit that his arrest by campus police in November 2017, his expulsion and the resulting news coverage “destroyed” his life.

According to the suit, filed Dec. 8 in U.S. District Court in Tampa, USF “rushed to a judgment” in the case for a number of reasons — the emergence at the time of the “Me Too” women’s rights movement, mistrust toward Black men, flawed investigative and judicial processes, internal bias in favor of female accusers and embarrassment over a prior USF assault case.

“White students accused of the same conduct violations as (Dingle) were provided less severe sanctions, subject to more thorough and time-intensive investigations, and provided due process during the investigation and hearing process,” the lawsuit stated.

Dingle insisted to investigators that his sexual encounter with another student, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Roe, was consensual, the lawsuit said. There were “outrageous inconsistencies” in the version of events she gave investigators, the lawsuit said.

Police said they had “developed sufficient cause” to arrest Dingle on a charge of sexual battery. But the State Attorney’s Office disagreed, deciding not to pursue charges against Dingle because of a lack of criminal evidence, the lawsuit said.

The office could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
USF never issued a statement after the charges were dropped, the lawsuit said. The university will have no comment on the pending litigation, spokesperson Althea Johnson said Tuesday.

Neither Dingle nor his attorneys, Kenneth G. Turkel and Anthony J. Severino of Tampa, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Pembroke Pines native released a statement on Twitter in 2018 maintaining his innocence and criticizing USF.

“False accusations hurt the real victims of sex crimes,” Dingle wrote. “The accused deserves to have an unbiased investigation and a real chance to defend himself. The State Attorney’s Office gave me both of those things, but USF did not.”

Dingle and Roe got together at USF’s on-campus Holly Apartments on Nov. 17, 2017, after having a number of conversations about having sex, the lawsuit said. Earlier in the week, they had met, exchanged Snapchat usernames and decided to meet at Dingle’s dorm room after Roe got out of class one day.
Dingle, 18 at the time, was arrested the same day and an internal investigation was launched by the university. It concluded Dec. 17 with the determination that Dingle broke USF rules and would be expelled.

Still, Dingle was forced to pay for on-campus housing — even after the criminal charges were dropped — in order to have his transcripts released to other universities, the lawsuit said. Up until the arrest, his housing costs had been paid through a football scholarship, the lawsuit said.

Dingle didn’t land another Division I college football scholarship even though he had been widely recruited while playing in high school in South Florida, the lawsuit said.

He went on to play football with Garden City Community College in Kansas and with Mississippi Valley State University, according to the schools’ social media pages.

Million Dollar Verdicts Reputation and Privacy Trial

CVN Florida Plaintiff’s Attorneys of 2016: Lawyers Whose $140M Verdict Broke Media Giant

Posted by Courtroom View Network on Dec 22, 2016 10:56:49 AM | Read Original Article

Billions of dollars were at stake in CVN-covered trials throughout Florida in 2016. However, the two lawyers who earn this year’s title as CVN Florida Plaintiff’s Attorneys of the Year spearheaded a win in a landmark trial over celebrity privacy that ultimately toppled a media giant.

CVN Florida Plaintiff’s Attorneys of 2016

Kenneth Turkel and Shane Vogt

The trial: Bollea v. Gawker Media

The verdict: Jurors awarded Terry Bollea $140.1 million, including $25 million in punitives, in his invasion of privacy suit against Gawker Media, its founder, and its former editor.

The details: Terry Bollea, better known as wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan, sued online media empire Gawker Media, claiming the company invaded his privacy and damaged his reputation when it published a clip of a sex video taken without Bollea’s knowledge by a friend of the wrestler’s. Gawker, which received the tape from an anonymous source and which it published with commentary by editor A.J. Daulerio, claimed the video was newsworthy based on Bollea’s celebrity status and his public discussion of his sex life.

The trial focused on standards of journalism and Gawker’s own business goals, with Vogt portraying Gawker founder Nick Denton as a mogul obsessed with driving viewers to his sites at any cost. “They knew it was wrong, they knew it was an invasion of privacy, they told other people and they did it anyway,” Vogt said. “We will prove they crossed the line.”

In closing statements of the punitive phase, Turkel told jurors the trial would serve as notice to other media sites regarding the limits of their coverage. “You send a message, you make a statement; that statement is ‘We’re going to draw the line,’” Turkel said. “Literally, you draw the line at the publication, without consent, of a private act accorded in a private bedroom.”

The trial and its stunning verdict made headlines nationwide and ultimately forced Gawker into bankruptcy. The case launched discussions on journalistic ethics, celebrity rights to privacy, and, when it was discovered PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel bankrolled the suit after Gawker allegedly outed him in a publication, the role the wealthy play in shaping media coverage.

But the landmark verdict itself was driven by the courtroom work of Turkel and Vogt. Their win in one of the country’s biggest trials of 2016 earns them Florida Plaintiff’s Attorney of the Year honors.

FL Plaintiff Atty of the Year_Turkel.pngFL Plaintiff Atty of the Year_Vogt.png

Million Dollar Verdicts Reputation and Privacy Trial

Hulk Hogan, Gawker Brace for Jury Verdict at Sex Tape Trial

“Do you think the media can do whatever they want?” asked Hogan’s attorney in closing arguments.

The time has nearly come for a verdict in the first-ever trial pitting a celebrity against a media organization for the posting of a sex tape. The proceedings represent a probing of newsworthiness and whether the press can be held to maintain a standard of decency. More than three and a half years since Gawker published a post titled, “Even For A Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex In A Canopy Bed Is Not Safe For Work But Watch It Anyway,” jury deliberations began after Hogan and Gawker gave a six-member jury in a Florida courtroom their closing arguments. These jurors began deliberations without having yet seen the sex tape in question.

Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) contends that a less-than-two-minute excerpt of a 30-minute video, showing the famous wrestler sleeping with Heather Cole, then the wife of his best friend Bubba the Love Sponge (a radio host born Todd Clem), was an invasion of privacy, illegal wiretapping, a violation of the right of publicity and inflicted emotional distress. In weighing Hogan’s claims, the jury has been instructed to consider whether the video was highly offensive and was outside the bounds of human decency, causing (purposely or by reckless disregard) Hogan to experience shame and embarrassment. The jury will also consider whether Hogan had a reasonable expectation of privacy and whether Hogan’s name and likeness was used in a commercial purpose. If Hogan has proven the elements of his claims, the jury will also take up Gawker‘s defense — that the publishing of the video is protected by the First Amendment because it related to a public concern, meaning it was “newsworthy.”

Before closing arguments began, Pinellas County Judge Pamela Campbell noted the line between free speech and unfair intrusion, telling the jury they’d have to consider what “ceases to be the giving of legitimate information to which the public is entitled and becomes a morbid and sensational prying into private lives for its own sake.”

Ken Turkel gave Hogan’s summary of the case.

Million Dollar Verdicts Reputation and Privacy Trial

How Kenneth Turkel’s Voir Dire Questions Set the Stage for $140M Verdict

Effectively addressing damages is critical during voir dire. And during jury selection of a headline-grabbing trial against Gawker Media, Kenneth Turkel’s questioning helped select a jury that delivered him a blockbuster verdict.

Terry Bollea, better known as wrestler Hulk Hogan, sued Gawker when the company’s celebrity gossip site posted a clip from a sex video involving Bollea and the one-time wife of a local radio personality.

Jury selection in the 2016 trial stretched across three days. By the time Turkel, of Tampa’s  Bajo | Cuva | Cohen | Turkel turned in earnest to the issue of damages, he’d spent more than three hours questioning jurors on matters ranging from their opinions on marriage to their radio listening habits. 

Importantly, during that time, Turkel had worked to build a strong rapport with the jury pool, through humor and a conversational style that encouraged prospective jurors to be forthcoming and candid in their answers. 

And when jurors weren’t immediately forthcoming, as when Turkel initially turned to the issue of damages issue, he drew on that rapport to press them. 

Turkel opened on the damages issue by asking if anyone in the pool heard about a civil lawsuit they thought was frivolous. 

When no one in the jury raised their hands, Turkel became clearly incredulous. “Nobody’s ever heard anything in the news, and they’ve never looked at it and said ‘Oh my God, can you believe so-and-so recovered that amount?”

At that, hands began to raise. “All right, yeah,” Turkel said, smiling. “I figured.”

That kind of back-and-forth encouraged prospective jurors to open up on their opinions, with some recalling their shock at the famous multi-million-dollar McDonald’s “hot coffee” verdict. And one prospective juror mentioned her surprise at hearing about a claim involving a woman who had allegedly died after being startled by a snake. 

“Could’ve been  a really, really scary snake,” Turkel deadpanned, as the jury pool erupted in laughter. 

As other jurors shared their views, Turkel drew them out with follow-up questions, while also turning to quieter jurors whose body language may have signaled concern. 

“Number 3, you look very pensive right now,” Turkel said to one prospective juror who had been quiet on the issue. “Do you have an opinion? You were, like, in hard-core thinker pose right there.”

Throughout the questioning, Turkel walked a line of drawing out jurors who may be against awarding a large verdict while highlighting a vocal consensus among the pool that they would consider the case on its merits. 

And Turkel’s masterful voir dire helped select a jury that ultimately found for Bollea and awarded him $140 million.

Original article on Courtroom View Network