Two former Louisiana State University students say recently released Washington Football Team running back Derrius Guice raped them just months apart in 2016, when Guice was a rising star freshman on the LSU football team.
A USA TODAY investigation found that the women’s allegations were shared at the time with multiple people at the school — including at least two coaches, an athletics administrator and a nurse — yet the school does not appear to have investigated.
As the holder of LSU’s single-game rushing record and No. 5 on the Tigers’ career rushing list, Guice was expected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. But he fell to the end of the second round amid concerns about his maturity and accountability. Injuries have plagued his short professional career, and Washington cut him on Aug. 7 following his arrest the same day in Virginia on multiple domestic violence charges, in a separate matter.
In a statement, Guice’s attorney Peter D. Greenspun denied all of the allegations and questioned the timing of the story’s release.
“At no time were allegations of physical or sexual assault brought against Derrius during his years as a student athlete at LSU,” Greenspun said in his statement. “To bring up such assertions only after the Virginia charges were initiated certainly calls into question the credibility, nature and timing of what is being alleged years later.
“Such speculation and innuendo should not be the basis for Derrius to be required to make any comment at all,” Greenspun added. “But he wants to be absolutely clear. The allegations in this story are just that and have no basis in fact.”
USA TODAY began reporting this specific story Aug. 3, four days before Guice’s arrest, and first interviewed one of the women in January about the alleged rape. That same woman also detailed her allegations in June as a plaintiff in a lawsuit in which she is listed as a “Jane Doe.”
The woman, a former LSU tennis player, spoke at length with an investigator for Washington on Aug. 6 — one day before Guice’s arrest and subsequent release. The investigator interviewed the woman for three and a half hours, with breaks, over Zoom, asking detailed questions about the sexual-assault allegation, the woman said.
Washington head coach Ron Rivera told reporters in a video conference Aug. 10 that the decision to cut Guice was his, but he declined to say if any factors beyond the domestic violence charges influenced the decision.
“Any time you have to release a very talented young football player, it’s always a tough decision,” Rivera said. “But this type of circumstance, this type of situation, we take those allegations very, very seriously, and we had to make a decision going forward.”
The Washington Football Team said in a statement to USA TODAY on Tuesday that it had no further comment beyond what Rivera said Aug. 10, deferring all questions to the NFL. Brian McCarthy, Vice President of Communications for the NFL, said the league was unaware of any sexual-assault allegations or Title IX complaints against Guice until earlier this month.
Both women told USA TODAY that Guice assaulted them in their own apartments after nights of heavy drinking. One woman said Guice showed up uninvited to a party she was hosting, then entered her bedroom while she was sleeping and raped her. The other woman, the tennis player, said Guice raped her when she allowed him into her home after meeting him for the first time at a bar.
“I was drunk and passed out on my bed,” the first woman said. “I never gave him consent. I never wanted to have sex with him. I don’t even remember except the flashbacks I had. I just wonder sometimes, does he even know that that was wrong?”
It is USA TODAY’s policy not to identify individuals who allege sexual assault without their permission. The women requested anonymity because they fear retribution. The first woman said Guice threatened and harassed her after she told others she did not consent to having sex with him.
According to the women and six friends and family members interviewed by USA TODAY, school officials at the time didn’t believe the women and provided questionable explanations as to why their alleged assaults wouldn’t be investigated. The women say no one from the university ever interviewed them or potential witnesses about the allegations.
The former tennis player said her alleged rape was reported to the school’s Title IX office, but that it was never investigated. She requested a copy of the report on Aug. 13 and agreed to share it with USA TODAY, but she said LSU has not yet provided it. The other woman said LSU emailed her after a friend reported the alleged assault, letting the woman know support services were available and asking if she wanted to file a formal complaint. She said she did not file one.
Neither woman reported the incidents to law enforcement, which is common among sexual assault victims. Campus and local police have no records of them.
The former tennis player’s assault is documented in a pending lawsuit against the NCAA, in which she and several women allege the college sports organization is liable for their assaults by athletes because it has failed to address athlete sexual violence at its member schools. The details of her assault claim in the suit — which conceals her and Guice’s identities — match those provided to USA TODAY earlier this year when a reporter first interviewed her.
The other woman shared a letter she wrote to Guice while in rehab, and details in the letter are the same as what she and two friends told USA TODAY about the alleged assault.
USA TODAY reporters interviewed two people who said the women described to them what happened within days of the alleged assaults, another who was told within a few weeks and three more who said the women told them months later. None of them witnessed the incidents take place. Two of the people said they reported the information directly to LSU coaches.
Federal Title IX policies in place when the reports were made required universities to “promptly investigate” sexual assault allegations to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation. LSU’s own Title IX policy said, “Any supervisor, or other responsible party who witnesses or receives a report or complaint, shall notify the Campus Title IX Coordinator.” The Title IX coordinator is then required to conduct an initial review to determine if a full investigation should be conducted.
LSU did not answer specific questions. It issued instead the following statement:
“LSU and LSU Athletics take all accusations of sexual assault with the utmost seriousness. Formal complaints are promptly and fully investigated and the rights and privacy of students are protected as stipulated by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Complainants are also strongly encouraged to report the offense to law enforcement and are provided information on health care, counseling and supportive measures available.”
The university’s handling of the incidents raise questions, said Alexandra Brodsky, who pursues civil rights cases involving harassment and other forms of discrimination against students as an attorney with Public Justice.
“Legally, in a court, the question is, ‘Was a school deliberately indifferent to the knowledge of the sexual assault?’ That’s a tough standard for a plaintiff to meet,” Brodsky said.
“But I think this could fall on the wrong side of that line.”
The first woman
The first woman, who did not play sports, said she lived in the same apartment complex as many athletes, Guice included, as a freshman in 2015-16. Early in the second semester, she hosted a party that Guice and several other football players attended.
“I remember, I was like, ‘Who invited him?’” the woman told USA TODAY, saying she disliked Guice because of what she’d seen previously of his attitude and demeanor.
At one point, drunk and uncomfortable with Guice’s presence, the woman said, she went into her bedroom, shut the door and passed out on her bed. Though her memories the next morning were hazy, she knew she’d been assaulted and said she had “trauma down there.” She also suspected Guice was responsible because he had put his number into her phone.
Over the next few days, the woman said, she had more and more flashbacks of the assault, making her memory of it clearer. Other football players at the party told her that Guice had talked about having sex with her. Upset, the woman told her friend on the LSU women’s diving team but asked her not to say anything, she said.
But the diver, who spoke to USA TODAY, said she was so upset by what the woman had told her that she reported the incident to her diving coach anyway. The coach then reported it to athletics officials, who called the friend in to question her, she said. The friend said she could not recall the name of the official she spoke with, but that it was a woman.
“They said they couldn’t do anything because (the victim) didn’t want to talk, and because it didn’t happen to me,” the diver said.
After that meeting, the woman said someone from LSU emailed her, told her the school was aware of the incident and said she could get treatment at the university health center. The woman does not remember who sent the email or which department the person was in. She said she no longer has access to the LSU email account to which the email was sent.
When a nurse at the health center asked if she planned to pursue a complaint against Guice, the woman said no.
“I don’t want to be that girl that everyone looks at and says, ‘Oh, she’s lying,’” the woman said. “Also, I was kind of scared to go forward with it because he was so violent.”
The nurse’s response reaffirmed to the woman that, even if she made a complaint to LSU, nothing would come of it.
“He’s like a god around here,” the woman recalled the nurse, an LSU employee, saying. “It probably would get pushed under the rug.”
The woman’s boyfriend at the time, an LSU football recruit, wasn’t at the party. But he said the woman told him afterward about both the alleged assault and her conversation with the nurse. His description matched that of the woman’s.
The former boyfriend redshirted his freshman year and said he steered clear of Guice because “I probably would have lost my (expletive) on him.” But he said LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron brought up the subject of his then-girlfriend and Guice about a year after the alleged assault, telling the athlete that he shouldn’t be bothered by it.
“(Orgeron) said, ‘Everybody’s girlfriend sleeps with other people,’” the former player told USA TODAY.
The former player said he doesn’t know how Orgeron knew what happened, but he believes the coach knew it was not consensual.
“I lost all respect for him,” the player added.
Orgeron did not respond to a request for comment.
The woman said when she heard Guice had told other players he’d had sex with her, she made it clear to them it had not been consensual.
“I think when the players went back and told him that, that’s when he got so violent,” the woman said. “Because he knew what he had done.”
During final exams the semester of her alleged assault, the woman discovered someone had dumped a protein shake on her car windshield, she said. The cup that was left behind had Guice’s name written on it, she said.
Another time, the woman said she was at a friend’s apartment when Guice stopped by. The friend told her to go and lock herself in his bedroom, which she did, but Guice pounded on the bedroom door until she opened it, she said.
“I just unlocked the door and looked at him,” the woman recalled. “He started going off and saying I don’t know who he is, I don’t know who I’m messing with and he should go and get his gun. I told him, ‘Do what you need to do.’
“After that, I closed the door in his face and locked it.”
The impact of the incident was devastating, the woman said.
“My life spiraled out of control completely,” she said. “The way my counselor says it, (assault survivors) either don’t want anything to do with guys or they’re trying to get power back and go out of control. That’s what I did. I was trying to get my power back.”
She got into drugs and was arrested. She wound up in rehab. While there, the woman said, counselors asked her to write a letter to the person she despised most. She wrote to Guice, she said. USA TODAY reviewed a copy of the letter, which does not name Guice but addresses her alleged perpetrator.
“Everyone seems to praise you but if they knew you have to take advantage of girls while they’re passed out just to feel powerful they would see the piece of (expletive) I see,” the woman wrote. “… I wonder what the media would say if they knew the real monster you are.”
Although she’s pieced her life back together now, she says the alleged rape is “always going to be something that happened to me, always going to be a part of me.” When she saw that Guice had been arrested, she said, a part of her was glad.
“I was just like, wow, they finally got him. They finally caught him,” she said. “It’s over with.”
The second woman
The former tennis player also lived in the same apartment complex as Guice.
She met him for the first time in late June 2016 at a bar near LSU campus, she said. She had already been drinking before she arrived, she said, and at the bar Guice bought her several Patrón shots. She was “extremely” intoxicated, she said. Her memory of the night is fuzzy.
“I was very drunk,” she said. “Way too drunk to give consent in the first place.”
The woman’s friend, another LSU athlete at the time, told USA TODAY she was at the bar that night. She also described the woman as drunk. Guice offered to drive both of them home and dropped the friend off first, the friend said.
The woman made it to her apartment, where she lived alone. She and Guice went separate ways. Sometime after, Guice texted her asking if he could come over, she said. She said she texted back allowing him to come but saying nothing was going to happen.
The woman was not able to retrieve a copy of the text message, as she has since gotten a new phone and did not keep the messages. She said she searched for the message in cloud storage and old backups but was unsuccessful.
The next thing she could remember from that night, Guice was forcing her to perform oral and then vaginal sex, she said. When she woke up in the morning, he was gone, she said. She told a few close friends that Guice had taken advantage of the situation, though she did not explicitly describe it as rape at the time, she said.
One of the friends said the woman told her about it the day after.
“She was just kind of shaken about it and not knowing what to say about it, but definitely knowing something wasn’t right,” the friend said.
The woman said she had been abusing alcohol and prescription drugs before she met Guice. Her drinking increased after the incident, she said. She was drinking before practice, and her teammates became so concerned that they told Julia Sell, the head women’s tennis coach. Sell ultimately dismissed her from the team after she tested positive for a drug that she had not been prescribed.
In April 2017, the woman checked herself into rehab, which LSU paid for, her father said. During the first few weeks there, she told a counselor Guice had raped her, she said. She also informed her family and friends. A rehab center employee later reported the alleged rape to LSU, she and her father said.
Later that month, the woman’s father met Sell during the Southeastern Conference women’s tennis championships in Nashville and told her an LSU football player raped his daughter, he said. The father said Sell told him, “I don’t believe her.”
“I was floored,” her father said. “It’s not something I would say. It’s not something most human beings would say after being given that type of news, even if they don’t believe it.”
Sell did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither LSU’s Title IX office nor athletic department officials contacted the woman or her father about initiating an investigation or implementing interim measures to support her, they said. The woman transferred to another school after leaving rehab that August.
The woman said she could have returned to LSU and retained her scholarship. But she would have remained under Sell’s purview, she said, so she left.
“LSU was such a toxic environment for me,” she said. “I had to get out.”
Two years later, the woman called LSU’s Title IX office to find out if it had any record of her assault claim. Title IX coordinator Jennie Stewart told her they did, but that the record didn’t name Guice, she said.
Stewart did not respond to a request for comment.
“I’m at peace with everything that happened,” the woman said. “But I don’t like that he’s freely walking and potentially doing that to other people. That makes me feel guilty.”
In late June, the former tennis player joined seven other women in a lawsuit against the NCAA, seeking damages for sexual assaults they say they suffered at the hands of male athletes. The lawsuit was originally filed in April in federal court, then refiled in May in state court in Ingham County, Michigan.
According to the woman’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, a Washington Football Team attorney reached out to Truszkowski on Aug. 4, asking to speak to her client about her allegations against Guice. The official arranged for the woman to meet with a third-party investigator, Laura Kirschstein, on Aug. 6 over Zoom, in a call that lasted three and a half hours.
Kirschstein, a former sex-crimes prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, heads the sexual misconduct division of a private law firm, T&M Protection Resources. Her team of ex-prosecutors provides consulting, training and investigative services to schools, professional sports teams and other businesses, according to the company’s website.
On Aug. 7, one day after the call, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office arrested Guice on three counts of assault and battery and counts of destruction of property and felony strangulation, stemming from three domestic violence incidents in February, March and April. Guice turned himself in that evening, spokesman Kraig Troxell said, then paid a $10,000 bond and was released from custody.
Guice is set to appear in Loudoun General District Court on Aug. 28 at 11:15 a.m.
Court documents show all three incidents took place at Guice’s home in Ashburn, Virginia. A woman, whose name is concealed, told police Guice strangled her with his hands until she was unconscious. The assault left visible bruises on her neck, according to the documents.
On two other occasions, the woman said Guice pushed her to the ground in his bedroom and outside his home, causing injuries.
The Washington Football Team cut ties with Guice within hours of his arrest. It released a statement that evening saying that it learned of the domestic violence allegations the day before and released Guice “upon review of the nature of these charges and following internal discussions.” The statement made no mention of alleged sexual assaults.
Washington has dropped the investigation for which it interviewed the former LSU tennis player, Truszkowski said, because Guice is no longer on the team’s roster. But the NFL is looking into the domestic violence charges, McCarthy said, and “similar misconduct before joining the NFL” could be considered as an aggravating factor in deciding the length of a suspension if Guice is found to have violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
Guice’s lawyer, Greenspun, previously issued a statement criticizing the team for releasing the player “without any inquiry as to what did or did not take place.”
“Derrius will defend these charges in court, where a full vetting will take place, in contrast to actions by local law enforcement and the Washington Football Team that assumed the worst, directly contradicting every sense of fairness and due process,” the statement said.
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