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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Sexual assault lawsuit set back by lawyer shake-up

The lawsuit filed by Stony Brook University alumna Sarah Tubbs against the university for alleged “deliberate indifference” in the handling of her sexual assault case has come to a halt because the law firm that represented her alleged assailant, whom she is also suing, has left the lawsuit.

Amy Attias, the lawyer representing Tubbs, said in an interview with The Statesman that the New York City law firm Stewart Karlin P.C. will no longer represent the alleged assailant. The lawyers were released from the case on Feb. 3, according to records obtained by The Statesman.

The Statesman is withholding the name of the alleged assailant, who is currently a student at Stony Brook, because he has not been criminally charged.

Attias also said that she has left the Goshen-based law firm Sussman and Watkins. She will continue representing Tubbs with lawyers Christopher Weddle and James Timko of the White Plains-based Timko & Moses LLP.

Meanwhile, Tubbs is now working as a bilingual social worker in Westchester County, having graduated with a master’s degree from Hunter College, Attias said.

“Doing this litigation has been difficult, and she’s still suffering the emotional consequences,” Attias said. “But she’s soldiering through. She’s working to change the system, and she’s hanging in there.”

Attias said representatives of the three parties — Tubbs, her alleged assailant and the State University of New York — will meet on Tuesday, March 1, to discuss how to proceed with the lawsuit. The alleged assailant may find a new lawyer or represent himself.

Attias said that the lawsuit was at the deposition stage before the alleged assailant’s lawyers left the suit.

“We just want to keep on moving,” Attias said.

Tubbs filed the lawsuit on Jan. 23, 2015 with the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in White Plains.

Tubbs, who was a social work major during her time at Stony Brook, said in her lawsuit complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a male student on Jan. 26, 2014. She reported the incident to the University Police Department and the Office of University Community Standards, and she was examined by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, the complaint states.

After a disciplinary hearing conducted by University Community Standards, Tubbs was informed on May 22, 2014 that the alleged assailant was found not responsible, and she filed an appeal. She received an email on March 6, 2015 from University Community Standards that stated that the appeal was found against her, Attias said in a previous interview.

Attias said that she is looking for other students at Stony Brook who have experienced Stony Brook’s judicial process for sexual assault cases and are willing to come forward as witnesses for the lawsuit.

“We’re not necessarily looking for plaintiffs, but we’re looking for witnesses to the process,” Attias said. “We’re actively reaching out to people. It’s easier emotionally to be a witness than to be a plaintiff, but it’s important to strengthen the case and change the process.”

Stony Brook University is under an investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for its compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex at federally-funded educational institutions.

Title IX’s definition of discrimination based on sex includes sexual harassment and assault, according to an April 4, 2011 letter from the Office of Civil Rights.

“This case is still very much alive,” Attias said about Tubbs’ lawsuit. “I know it’s sounded very quiet, but this is not finished at all.”

Spokespeople for Stony Brook University were not immediately available for comment.

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