2nd ex-NC State athlete sues school in sexual abuse case
Jan 31, 2023, 9:26 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2023, 12:08 pm
A second former North Carolina State athlete sued the school Wednesday alleging he was sexually abused by the Wolfpack’s former director of sports medicine under the guise of treatment.
The lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Robert Murphy Jr. of improperly touching the athlete’s genitals and elsewhere between two separate occasions in 2016. The plaintiff’s name is listed as “John Doe” to protect anonymity and doesn’t specify which sport he played.
The Title IX lawsuit alleges the school failed in a “duty of reasonable care” to protect the plaintiff and was “deliberately indifferent” in acting on concerns about Murphy’s conduct.
Former Wolfpack soccer player Benjamin Locke was the first to sue the school in late August, accusing Murphy of improperly touching his genitals during roughly 75 to 100 massages that Locke said he later believed lacked “legitimate” medical necessity between August 2015 and May 2017.
That lawsuit also alleged that former head coach Kelly Findley told a senior athletics official in February 2016 that Murphy was “engaging in contact… consistent with ‘grooming behavior'” but there was no follow-up action by the school.
The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify those who say they have been sexually assaulted or abused, but Locke spoke out publicly.
The lawsuit states the second athlete came forward after learning of Locke’s complaint and cites similar allegations in terms of the school’s response.
Both lawsuits stated the athletes had sought professional counseling.
Durham-based attorney Kerry Sutton, who has worked numerous Title IX cases as well as sexual harassment matters in 14 states, represents both clients. In a statement to the AP, Sutton said she has spoken with four men with “similar claims so far.”
“Ben Locke and John Doe suffered silently for years and hope their stories will inspire others to come forward,” Sutton said. “Locke and John Doe shine a spotlight on a dark corner in the NCSU athletics department that was presumed to be safe.”
Jared Hammett, a Raleigh-based attorney working with Murphy, didn’t immediately return an email requesting comment Wednesday. An attorney who worked with Murphy previously has said Murphy offered “appropriate medical procedures … but nothing that was ever of a sexual nature.”
The school said previously that Murphy, who arrived in 2012 from Mercer, was placed on administrative leave in January 2022 amid a Title IX investigation tied to Locke’s allegations.
Locke’s complaint stated he learned in June that Murphy no longer worked at N.C. State due to an “involuntary separation,” though reasons weren’t disclosed. The Title IX investigation ultimately found “a violation would have been substantiated via the preponderance of the evidence standard” if Murphy remained, according to a letter to Locke from the school’s Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.
In a statement Wednesday, N.C. State declined comment on specific allegations while reviewing the lawsuit.
“Sexual misconduct of any kind is completely unacceptable and contrary to the culture and standards of the athletic department and the university,” the school said, adding its commitment “to continually reviewing and improving its processes to ensure student health, safety and privacy.”
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