CLARKSBURG – A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against West Virginia University alleging a former student was sexually assaulted and the school mishandled her report of the rape.
The settlement agreement was reached on Nov. 17.
Bianca Saporito will receive $100,000 in exchange for dropping the lawsuit against the university, according to the settlement document obtained by the Charleston Gazette-Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Saporito agreed not to talk about the settlement or post about it on social media.
The lawsuit was filed on July 8, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
On April 13, 2014, Saporito was a student at WVU and was sexually assaulted by another student at a home in Morgantown. She met with the Morgantown Police Department and reported that her assailant raped her in a bathroom at the residence and gave a videotaped statement regarding the assault to MPD.
The next day, WVU DEI Investigator Peggy Runyon spoke with the MPD detective assigned to the plaintiff’s sexual assault investigation and the assailant was arrested by MPD on April 17, 2014, according to the suit.
Saporito claimed on April 22, 2014, Runyon interviewed her regarding the sexual assault and a second interview occurred on May 9, 2014. A third interview occurred on May 27, 2014.
During the third interview, Runyon attempted to dissuade Saporito from proceeding with a WVU expulsion hearing to be held for the assailant before a WVU Student Conduct Board, according to the suit.
Saporito claimed on May 29, 2014, Runyon spoke with the MPD detective assigned to the sexual assault and viewed the plaintiff’s video statement on June 4, 2014.
On June 5, 2014, Saporito’s assailant e-mailed WVU’s Office of Student Conduct, stating that he had heard from his lawyer that the school investigator concluded that he was innocent. On July 7, 2014, Saporito was notified that an expulsion hearing would be held at 9 a.m. the next morning.
On July 8, 2014, Runyon produced her report, stating that she believed that Saporito consented to sexual events and that the assailant stopped his sexual advances once Saporito told him to stop, among other damaging misinformation regarding Saporito, according to the suit.
Saporito claimed Runyon further found in her report that the plaintiff’s “actions and inactions prior to her rape demonstrated ‘silence with activity and meets the consent definition for Title IX cases.’”
Runyon did not provide the WVU Student Conduct Board with the MPD videotaped statement of Saporito and did not produce the MPD report and the detective assigned to Saporito’s case was not asked to testify at the expulsion hearing, according to the suit.
Saporito claimed she testified at the hearing, as did her assailant, and the board found that the assailalnt was “not responsible” for sexual misconduct and he was allowed to remain a student at WVU.
On July 17, 2014, Saporito e-mailed the Assistant Dean of Students at WVU’s Student Conduct Office and stated her reasons for her appeal of the finding, according to the suit.
Saporito claimed she was forced to withdraw from WVU because she was being directly exposed to her assailant.
On Jan. 6, the assailant entered into a plea agreement with the state, through the Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, in which he pled guilty to battery and unlawful restraint, according to the suit.
Saporito was seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Bader C. Giggenbach of Brewer & Giggenbach; and Robert G. McCoid of McCamic, Sacco & McCoid PLLC.
WVU is represented by Benjamin Bailey, Michael B. Hissam and Mary Pat Statler of Bailey & Glasser LLP.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:16-cv-00152