Friday, January 30, 2009

Lawsuit Filed in Auburn Case

Auburn U. fraternity, student facing lawsuits filed by Jones' family

The parents of Taylor Jones are filing a lawsuit against the local and national chapters of Sigma Phi Epsilon, as well as a Auburn University freshman student, following an altercation at the fraternity house that put their son in the ICU.

In addition to the personal injury lawsuit, Jones' father signed a warrant charging Zachary Quillen, 18, with assault in the second degree.

This crime is a Class C felony punishable by a minimum of one year and one day in prison and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Those involved have been reluctant to offer information about what this means for Sigma Phi Epsilon, but Paul Kittle, director of Greek Life, said in an e-mail, "Other than continuing to hope that Mr. Jones has a full recovery, with criminal charges and civil litigation pending, as well as restrictions under (the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act), we decline to make further comment."

The criminal case against Quillen will be prosecuted by Lee County District Attorney Nick Abbett, who is responsible for prosecuting all felonies in Lee County.

"(The case will) be presented to a grand jury, if the grand jury returns an indictment, then it'll be set for trial," Abbett said.

Wes McCollum, one of the attorneys working for the Jones family, said they are suing the fraternity's local and national chapter for failing to provide adequate security for those involved. The suit against Quillen is for injuring their son. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of Jones in the name of his father, Michael Jones.

McCollum said this is because Jones is a minor, and because his family and legal representatives do not want to aggravate his condition.

"We alleged in the lawsuit that Taylor, who had been invited over there by someone with a group of friends, was asked to leave by some other people that he did not know, and as he was leaving he had some words with a group of folks that included a group of Sig Eps," McCollum said. "And he was walking away and that's when he was struck from behind by Mr. Quillen."
McCollum also said the Jones family is limited to seeking financial compensation from the fraternity.

"But we're also hoping that it results in some change that can benefit everybody," McCollum added.

Interfraternity Council President Bradford Stewart would not comment on the future of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

"This is being approached as an individual incident, it was a single member of their fraternity," Stewart said. "It's hard to hold an entire fraternity accountable for the actions of one member."
When there is an allegation against a fraternity, the organization goes to a referral committee comprised of the IFC president, IFC vice-president, risk-management and the IFC adviser, Stewart said.

The referral committee then reviews the case to decide whether there is enough evidence to pursue it. Serious cases go to the IFC court.

"IFC court would make recommendations for sanctions, those recommendations would go to the University's committee on fraternities and sororities," Stewart said.

The president-appointed University committee has the power to overrule the disciplinary action handed down by the IFC court.

"It was definitely an unfortunate accident, but we just gotta hope for the best and what's gonna happen is gonna happen," Stewart said.

The attorneys representing the Jones family will move the case forward, exchanging information with the defense, but McCollum said they will have to be conscious of the criminal case still ongoing.
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