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NCCC sex assault victim sues alleged attacker's mother

A Lewiston woman never got the chance to face in court the man she says sexually assaulted her at Niagara County Community College.

He died in jail about a month after his arrest.

Now the woman is taking his mother to court. She sued just days after the mother received a $275,000 settlement over her son's jailhouse death.

The State Supreme Court suit names Jenine M. Townsend, the mother of DeJuan L. Hunt II, who was charged with assaulting the woman.

"There is the reality that she was subjected to harm by Mr. Hunt, and to the extent that there are now resources in his estate, it's a fair claim by my client against Mr. Hunt's estate," said Shawn W. Carey, the woman's lawyer.

Civil suits in sexual assault cases are rare – unless the attacker has money.

"I think typically the attacker is not someone who has the wherewithal to pay a recovery," said Robert Viola, a Niagara Falls attorney not involved in the Hunt case. "You're bringing a claim for somebody reliving something they'd probably rather not relive. My guess is if there had been no recovery (by Hunt's mother), there would be no claim."

There have been a few recent civil cases involving sexual assaults.

In February, Viola negotiated a $500,000 settlement from the City of Niagara Falls on behalf of a woman who was sexually assaulted twice by a corrupt city policeman now in prison.

Iver J. Phallen, a Lewiston businessman who pleaded guilty in 2015 to torturing three women, was the target of a civil suit from one of the women. Phallen was charged with sex crimes but did not admit to them. Phallen is now serving a 14-year prison sentence. The lawsuit remains pending.

In the latest case, Carey said he didn't know Townsend was the administrator of Hunt's estate until recently.

The mother's attorney had little to say about the new lawsuit.

"No comment on allegations I know nothing about and upon which the deceased Mr. Hunt is unable to defend himself," said attorney Scott M. Schwartz, who represented Hunt's mother in her wrongful death suit against the county.

"As in any claim, the plaintiff will have to prove her case," Schwartz said. "Unfortunately, Mrs. Townsend felt that she had put litigation involving her late son behind her. Apparently, that is not the case."

A fateful day

The Lewiston woman's lawsuit accuses Hunt of a sexual assault and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. She was 48 years old when she reported being attacked on July 19, 2016.

She told authorities she was using a computer in the NCCC Learning Commons, where she said Hunt sat down next to her and then asked for a campus tour. The woman agreed, believing Hunt was a new student.

In a Building F hallway, Hunt allegedly pressed himself against the woman's backside and hip and told her, using two vulgarities, that what he really wanted was to have sex with her.

DeJuan Hunt. (Family photo)

The woman got away and the attacker fled.

Hunt, 25, who was not a NCCC student, was arrested Aug. 3 in connection with another sexual abuse incident on campus.

Suing the college

The woman filed two lawsuits against NCCC, one for defamation and a later one for negligence.

The woman's name was not published or broadcast in news reports.

But in April 2017, local media reported a surreptitiously recorded tape of a private meeting in then-NCCC President James P. Klyczek's office that occurred in the wake of the assaults.

"What is she, stupid?" Klyczek asked about the Lewiston woman. "I mean no, seriously. This just aggravates me. Make us the guilty party because you're too stupid to follow your instinct that this guy sits down next to you and there's nobody else around, and you agree to take him on a tour. That's as dumb as can be."

The recording, first reported by WKBW-TV, wrecked Klyczek's support on the college Board of Trustees and he resigned April 26.

In her defamation suit against the college, the woman contended that people in her community knew who Klyczek was talking about on the tape.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III ruled the woman missed a deadline to file a notice of claim before the defamation lawsuit, but Carey appealed that ruling and also filed the negligence suit on Oct. 6.

The negligence suit accused the county and NCCC of not protecting her from Hunt, alleging Hunt sexually harassed three other women on campus the same day she was assaulted.

Settlement talks ensued.

Niagara County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the county paid $5,000 to settle the defamation suit, with insurance companies for the college and Klyczek paying $45,000.

The woman dropped the negligence lawsuit as part of the settlement.

"I agreed to the $5,000 to get rid of it," Joerg said. "It would have cost $15,000 (in legal fees) just to file motions."

"This matter has been resolved, and I have no comment," NCCC spokeswoman Barbara DeSimone said.

Carey declined to make his client available for an interview.

"This was a terrible ordeal for her. It's not something she wants to discuss," Carey said.

Settling claim over Hunt's death

After Hunt's mother sued over her son's death, Niagara County agreed to pay her $125,000, and PrimeCare Medical, the company that provides medical care at the jail, will pay $150,000.

The Erie County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Hunt's death a homicide.

Hunt was on suicide watch in the jail. He died nine days after a struggle in his cell with corrections officers who were trying to force him to put on a special vest that was supposed to prevent him from harming himself.

In the course of subduing him, an officer pressed a baton against Hunt's shins, leaving a mark. The autopsy concluded that pressure might have triggered a reaction called rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome in which muscle fiber dies and damages the kidneys.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek did not file criminal charges in connection with Hunt's death.

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