Les Miles, former and current board members and former attorneys ordered by U.S. District Judge to testify in Sharon Lewis retaliation and harassment suit

LSU’s associate athletic director of football recruiting Sharon Lewis told USA Today that former Tigers' football coach Les Miles once "got in my face and said that if I was a coach and didn’t do what he said, he would punch him in his mother f------ face."

Former head football coach Les Miles, several previously protected LSU board members and two attorneys who previously represented the university, are now being forced by a federal court order to give depositions in the ongoing lawsuit involving former associate athletic director Sharon Lewis.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan released an order Wednesday that granted Lewis’ motion to compel testimony from eight current and former LSU officials, including Miles. Morgan also ruled that LSU must provide Lewis with a bevy of documents that had been previously withheld by LSU, including sexual harassment investigations and related documents into associate head coach Frank Wilson’s background checks, whom Lewis accused of sexually harassing her.

Originally scheduled for May 22, 2023, the federal court trial date has officially been moved to December 11, 2023.

In July 2022, when Morgan’s federal court set the jury trial date to begin on May 22, 2023, the court declared it would not grant motions to continue any trial-related deadlines “except under rare and extraordinary circumstances,” and that the trial “will not be continued, even on joint motion, absent good cause or compelling reason.”

On Wednesday, Morgan additionally ordered LSU’s Board of Supervisors must also supply Lewis with unredacted billing records and other documents related to Miles’ settlement agreement with a former student who accused him of sexual harassment.

The release of these previously concealed communications will likely also open the door for Lewis’ attorneys to strengthen their pending appeal on June 5, 2023, in the Fifth Circuit of Appeals to have the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) reinstated by the time federal court trial begins.

Lewis’ federal lawsuit alleges that her supervisors and colleagues created a hostile work environment and retaliated against her at LSU after she attempted to report, starting in 2012, that Miles had sexually harassed a student. She filed lawsuits in both federal and state court in 2021, and LSU terminated her in early 2022.

Currently, LSU’s Board of Supervisors is the only remaining defendant in her federal case. Miles, several LSU board members and Taylor Porter law firm attorneys Bob Barton and Vicki Crochet were each originally named as defendants and have since been dismissed.

Now, however, each of these individuals are ordered to speak up under deposition.

In her motion to compel, Lewis’ attorneys explained specific subjects about which they hoped to depose Miles, the specific past members and present members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, and the attorneys.

Lewis specified that she wanted to depose Miles about whether he retaliated against her and created a hostile environment for her between 2012 and 2016; she also wants to question him about the concealment of his prior sexual harassment allegations. LSU claims they terminated Miles for his on-field performance, not those allegations. But Miles was let go at Kansas once the sexual harassment allegations from LSU became public.

According to Andrea Gallo in today’s edition of TheAdvocate.com, Miles’ attorney, Peter Ginsberg, reiterated Thursday that Lewis’ claims against Miles have been dismissed in both federal and state court. Ginsberg has denied that Miles engaged in any misconduct at LSU.

“Her effort to engage in a new discovery fishing expedition will yield a similarly empty net,” Ginsberg said.

Lewis’ pleadings said she wanted to depose Barton and Crochet about cover-ups of sexual harassment complaints at LSU and their concealment of Miles’ sexual harassment investigation from the public. Morgan denied a request for a protective order from Barton and Crochet.

Lewis is also seeking to depose former longtime LSU board member and LSU basketball star Stanley Jacobs. Lewis said she wanted to depose Jacobs about steps the board took to conceal Miles’ sexual harassment report and the board’s knowledge of a hostile environment within LSU athletics. Morgan denied Jacobs’ request for a protective order that would prevent him from testifying, and she also denied his request that Lewis be ordered to pay him reasonable expenses and attorney fees.

Jimmy Faircloth, the attorney representing Jacobs, also told TheAdvocate.com Jacobs has been dismissed as a defendant from the suit and said he “intends to comply with all court orders regarding his deposition.”

“Apparently, the Board is arguing that a deposition of Jacobs and other Board members is not necessary because the knowledge of any one Board member is not required,” Morgan wrote in her order. “This argument misses the mark. Plaintiff wishes to depose the identified individual Board members, including Jacobs, to discover what these Board members or other decisionmakers knew because what they knew may bear on what the Board knew.”

Lewis will also be able to depose four current LSU board members: Valencia Sarpy Jones, Mary Leach Werner, James Williams and Jimmie Woods. She is seeking to ask them about the board’s knowledge of a hostile work environment within LSU athletics, the board’s knowledge of Miles’ history and how the board reacted to revelations about Wilson. Morgan denied requests for protective orders from the board.

Morgan’s order also gives Lewis a green light to proceed with her depositions, but said she cannot ask Miles, the attorneys or the board members about communications that would fall under attorney-client privilege. Morgan said in a previous order that LSU officials, aided by the Taylor Porter attorneys, may have committed a crime in 2013 by concealing Miles’ sexual harassment report from the public. A handful of high-profile current and former LSU officials have already been deposed in the case, including former athletic director Joe Alleva, current athletic director Scott Woodward, and current head football coach Brian Kelly.

Morgan, who was nominated to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama, gave LSU until May 25 to produce the Wilson records.

In state court, most of Lewis’ claims against LSU have been dismissed and a state judge imposed more than $330,000 in sanctions against Lewis and her legal team, saying they filed frivolous claims. Her attorneys have appealed the sanctions, and they’ve also appealed a previous ruling from Morgan that spiked racketeering claims from the federal suit.

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Todd Horne

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