Ex-Coppin State basketball player alleges sexual assault, blackmail in lawsuit

Published on: November 08, 2022 6:00 AM EST|Updated on: November 08, 2022 8:14 AM EST

A basketball in a basketball hoop.

A former guard on the Coppin State University men’s basketball team has filed a lawsuit alleging that a member of the program blackmailed and sexually assaulted him and that the school failed to protect student athletes.

Ibn Williams, 22, of Newark, New Jersey, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 2 in Baltimore Circuit Court against Coppin State University, the University System of Maryland, the state of Maryland and three school athletics officials. The complaint contains five counts including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract.

In the 15-page lawsuit, Williams alleges that the university promised a safe school environment free from drugs, abuse and violence. But the complaint alleges that Lucian Brownlee, his teammate who later served as director of player development for the Coppin Eagles, blackmailed and sexually assaulted him.

“We’re hopeful this is a bridge to a quick discussion and a quick resolution to resolve this for all parties,” said Daniel “Donny” Epstein, Williams’ attorney and lead counsel on the case. “We just want justice for Ibn, and we want to shine a light on what happened here.”

During his first semester in fall 2018, someone purporting to be a young woman on social media contacted Williams and convinced him to send images of a “sexual nature” that he believed were “private and in the context of a developing romantic relationship,” according to the lawsuit.

Next, the lawsuit alleges, that person revealed that the woman did not exist and stated that Williams would have to “submit to further demands or risk the public disclosure of the material.”

Williams kept responding to the messages in “an increasingly futile attempt to appease his tormenter” out of fear of losing a spot on the team as well as payments for tuition and room and board, the lawsuit states. He believed that the release of the material would destroy his reputation and basketball career at Coppin State and cause embarrassment and shame for him and his family.

In spring 2019, Brownlee, then a senior, told Williams that he had also sent “sexual content” to the account, the complaint asserts.

The extortionist ordered Williams to “engage in sexual encounters” with Brownlee, the lawsuit alleges, and, after he resisted, resumed sending a “constant barrage of demands and threats” in fall 2019. By then, Brownlee had graduated and joined the coaching staff.

Later, the blackmailer demanded that Williams record a video of himself engaging in oral sex with Brownlee, the complaint asserts. “In the face of the threat of exposure and loss of his position in the basketball program and its financial support, and with the insistence and urging of Coach Brownlee, Plaintiff acquiesced,” the lawsuit alleges.

Brownlee could not be reached for comment, and he has not been charged with a crime. Epstein said he has heard that Brownlee is no longer with the university, even though he is listed on the university’s website as director of player development. Coppin State declined to confirm whether he is currently employed.

The threats continued, the complaint claims, and the extortionist at one point warned that there would be consequences for ignoring the requests.

“Upon information and belief, the blackmailer was Coach Brownlee,” the lawsuit alleges.

Eventually, Williams told his family that he was concerned with the blatant and unchecked use of drugs as well as inappropriate behavior from members of the team while traveling for away games, the complaint asserts. He did not tell them about the blackmail.

In summer 2020, Williams and his father met with head coach Juan Dixon, who “indicated that he was helpless to address the drug issue in any meaningful way,” the lawsuit alleges.

Dixon persuaded Williams not to transfer, according to the lawsuit.

But in fall 2020, the blackmailer renewed the demands and then revealed the material to members of the men’s basketball team as well as the public, the lawsuit alleges.

Later, Dixon admitted to Williams that Brownlee was “mentally ill or otherwise emotionally imbalanced,” the lawsuit asserts. Dixon reported that Director of Athletics Derek Carter and Coppin State also knew about Brownlee’s history, the complaint alleges.

Williams asked Coppin State to conduct a review of the harassment, sexual assault and blackmail, but that process caused him further emotional distress, the lawsuit alleges. He was questioned about his past sexual experiences and sexual orientation, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also asserts that the university terminated Williams’ financial assistance for housing and tuition without explanation or cause.

Epstein said his client experienced suicidal ideations and now believes that it’s his duty to “call to light the atrocities.” Williams, he said, has not reported the incident to law enforcement.

“We’ve seen a complete disregard of the complaint and no action taken affirmatively to address it,” Epstein said.

In an email, Robyne McCullough, director of communications for Coppin State, said it will not comment on pending litigation. Meanwhile, Carter and Dixon could not immediately be reached.

Dixon led the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team as a senior to its first national championship in 2002. The Washington Wizards drafted him at No. 17 in the 2002 NBA draft, and he later played for the Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.

He’s also known from appearing on the Bravo TV reality show “The Real Housewives of Potomac.” Sheila Dixon, who served as mayor of Baltimore from 2007-2010, is his aunt.

Williams is now a junior at Morehouse College, where he plays guard for the Maroon Tigers men’s basketball team. He referred questions about the case to his attorney.

The Maryland Judiciary Case Search does not list any upcoming hearings in the lawsuit.