LAPORTE | A Porter County jury will hear the case of a former LaPorte High School student seeking damages from the LaPorte Community Schools Corp. over sexual contact she had with a former volleyball coach.
LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos ruled Wednesday on a motion by school attorney Michael Sears, of Munster, to bring in a jury from Porter County if the case goes to trial in his courtroom due to heavy publicity.
In the lawsuit filed in 2012, the victim is seeking $500,000 to $700,000 in damages for each of the 25 sexual encounters she had with Robert Ashcraft from September 2007 to the summer of 2009.
The girl claims in the suit the school corporation along with athletic director Ed Gilliland and then girls varsity volleyball coach Mary Beth Lebo were negligent by failing to provide her with the proper supervision over an employee and ignored indications from various sources of an illicit and illegal relationship with Ashcraft.
The girl also alleges wrongdoing from all defendants not providing her with a safe environment.
The victim's attorney, Timothy Stoesz, of Westfield, temporarily withdrew a motion for the school corporation to give him a report detailing the findings of an investigation that allegedly contain e-mail exchanges between school corporation employees that allegedly indicate an attempt to cover up the sexual affair.
Stoesz said he wasn't quite ready to argue the motion to have those documents now being kept confidential by the school corporation.
To help prepare a defense, Sears also revealed he just recently obtained the psychological records from the therapist of the former student, who in her request for damages cited injuries as a result of the defendants' negligence.
Sears, in his written motion for the medical records, argued he had a right to have them to prepare a defense since in her request for damages claims to have suffered “unspecified mental health damages.”
According to the lawsuit, she was a 15-year old freshman in the fall of 2007 when selected to play on the girls junior varsity volleyball team coached by Ashcraft.
Ashcraft, 48, was no longer employed in October 2008, but the victim alleges the sexual activity continued for nearly a year.
Ashcraft is now serving a 21-year prison sentence.
Lebo and Gilliland still have misdemeanor counts pending trial on allegations they failed to report to the proper authorities their suspicions about the activities between Ashcraft and the now former student.
The civil case is scheduled to go to a jury Aug. 17, 2015.