Downey says Marshall cheerleader case "troublesome"

By John O'Brien | Jun 27, 2006

CHARLESTON - With 10 years of experience on sexual harassment cases, it would be easy for Charleston attorney Mary Downey to think she's heard it all.

But she doesn't pretend to know what's going to happen next. And she certainly couldn't have foreseen the type of case she's currently involved with.

Downey is representing a former Marshall University cheerleader in a sexual harassment case against the school's Board of Governors, cheerleading coach Donna Dunn and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

"I do a lot of sexual harassment cases, and they're all pretty grotesque," Downey said. "This one, in particular, definitely is. It was a young woman's life goal to be a cheerleader for Marshall."

That woman is known only by the initials K.C. in a lawsuit filed June 13 in Kanawha Circuit Court. It says her dream of being a cheerleader turned into a nightmare.

The lawsuit alleges Dunn instructed the female members of the squad to be sexually provocative at a golf fundraising auction by placing golf balls down their shirts, exposing their breasts and kissing a putter shaped like a penis. It also says she encouraged them to throw up in order to lose weight.

"I think the facts are very troublesome and as the lawsuit progresses, I'm sure additional facts will come out and we'll find new information," Downey said. "We're in the very elementary practices of the litigation process. We've got a long way to go."

The suit also contends that the squad's male cheerleaders are to blame. It says, "Male members of the cheerleading squad routinely made offensive actions toward female squad members, including exposing their genitalia, rubbing their scrotum on a female team member's face as she stretched on the floor, groping female members' breasts, shouting 'Throw the bitches up' and grabbing their genitalia area."

It adds that head male cheerleader Richard Edmunds pulled down her sports bra and instructed her "not to be a bitch or she would find her ass hitting the ground."
K.C. also says he exposed his penis to her, rubbed his scrotum on her head and face, promised her a permanent spot on the squad if she would have sex with him, requested they make a pornographic video together and "announced that he wanted to f--k her."

They are allegations that could make even the most experienced attorney shudder.

Downey says she just hopes she can help.

"When people are harmed and you can help, that's very gratifying," she said.

She says she has messages from two individuals who informed her they have information regarding the case, but has not been able to reach them.

Whether any other cheerleader will come forward with allegations, Downey isn't sure. After all, she has learned not to expect anything with sexual harassment cases.

"I just do my job and go full speed ahead," she said.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1123

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