PHILIPPI, W.Va. — One day after a Barbour County jury handed down apportioned blame in a civil case regarding four former Alderson Broaddus University women’s basketball players who were photographed in the nude by their assistant coach, the plantiffs and their attorneys are “pleased” with the trial’s results.
“I’ve never been more proud as a lawyer to stand with clients in front of a jury and make a case for them. These are four wonderful young ladies,” their attorney Stephen New said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “And yes, they are proud that the system worked the way that is was designed to work in a very emotionally-charged case and a difficult case on a lot of legal issues.”
Collins Murphy, a former resident director and volunteer women’s basketball coach at the university, confessed in 2014 to having a hidden camera in the dorm bathroom of four female plantiffs and taking naked photographs of the women without their knowledge or consent. This occurred in December 2011.
At the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, Murphy was fired from AB for unrelated issues with his job performance, at which time he relocated to Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina. While living in South Carolina, Murphy shared the photos with former AB men’s basketball player O’Dell Eargle and/or uploaded them to the internet.
Eargle messaged the women via Facebook in fall 2014, saying that he had naked photographs of them, which they initially declined to believe.
“And he said, ‘Oh yes I do. Want to see?’ and starts Snapchatting and messaging naked photographs of these young ladies to them, and that’s when reality hit four years ago this month,” New said.
Murphy then confessed to the allegations upon a return to West Virginia that fall for a campus bonfire at AB.
“According to the confession, there were some pornographic websites that were mentioned. Our girls never went looking for them once this happened,” New said. “One of them said she got a link to a pornographic website and said she didn’t follow on that.”
However, Murphy could not be charged at that time.
“Unfortunately in West Virginia, criminal invasion of privacy is a misdemeanor with a one year statute of limitations, so in May of 2013, the criminal statute of limitations would have expired in West Virginia,” New said.
Furthermore, New said the South Carolina authorities declined to prosecute Murphy for dissemination of the photographs.
“And that’s a real shame,” he said. “We’re actually going to try to get the legislature to look at making a crime like this, criminal invasion of privacy, where you clandestinely take someone’s nude photograph without their permission a felony instead of just a misdemeanor.”
Thus, the four female victims were left only with the option for a civil case, letting a jury decide the division of liability between Murphy and the university.
The plantiffs’ argument was that AB was negligent “in retaining, supervising or training” Murphy.
“Alderson Broaddus had a two-person room entry policy for break periods. The evidence was that Murphy entered their room with a master key during a master key during a break period where the room was unoccupied,” New said.
New said the university’s policy is that if a resident director enters a room during an unoccupied break period, he or she must be accompanied by security and/or there must be two individuals enter the room.
“We made the argument that Alderson Broaddus should have an effective enforcement mechanism like taking the keys from the RDs and then receive a security escort, that it was foreseeable,” he said. “We argued that it was a negligent act that enabled or gave the opportunity for the criminal act to take place.”
The jury, consisting of four women and two men, agreed, ruling Alderson Broaddus 30 percent liable. Murphy was found 70 percent liable.
The jury awarded $800,000 in damages.
Georgetown University has not responded to a request for comment.