A judge has dismissed Coppin State University and its ex-men’s head basketball coach Juan Dixon from a lawsuit that a former player filed alleging that a member of the program blackmailed and sexually assaulted him and that the school failed to protect student athletes.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa K. Copeland made the ruling based on various legal grounds at a hearing on Monday. She said she would allow the complaint to be amended.
“At this juncture, we are very much at the very beginning of the case,” Copeland said.
Ibn Williams, 23, of Newark, New Jersey, filed the lawsuit in 2022 and asserted that the university promised a safe environment. But the complaint alleged that Lucian Brownlee, a teammate who went on to serve as director of player development, blackmailed and sexually assaulted him.
In fall 2018, Williams claims that someone pretending to be a young woman on social media convinced him to send images of a “sexual nature,” which he believed were “private and in the context of developing a romantic relationship,” according to the lawsuit.
Then, the person revealed that the young woman did not exist and informed Williams that he would have to “submit to further demands or risk the public disclosure of the material.” The blackmailer later directed Williams to “engage in sexual encounters” with Brownlee, who had since graduated and became part of the coaching staff, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit claims the following: “Upon information and belief, the blackmailer was Coach Brownlee.” The extortionist, the complaint asserts, revealed material to members of the men’s basketball team as well as the public.
Later, Dixon admitted to Williams that Brownlee was “mentally ill or otherwise emotionally imbalanced” and stated that Director of Athletics Derek Carter and Coppin State knew about that history, according to the lawsuit.
Coppin State, the lawsuit asserts, questioned Williams about his past sexual experiences and orientation after he asked the school to conduct a review of the claims of harassment, sexual assault and blackmail.
Williams has since transferred to Morehouse College, a private, historically Black college in Atlanta.
Copeland also dismissed all counts against Carter, the University System of Maryland and the State of Maryland.
“We are pleased with the decision to dismiss all claims against Coppin State University, the University System of Maryland, the State of Maryland, Derek Carter, and Juan Dixon,” said Aleithea Warmack, a spokesperson for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, in a statement. “Because the court has granted leave for the plaintiff to amend the complaint, unfortunately, we are prevented from commenting on the specific details of the case at this time.”
Brownlee remains a defendant in the case. His attorney, Tiffani Collins, could not be reached for comment.
Assistant Attorney General Ari Lichterman argued that the defendants were entitled to immunity and that the complaint failed to sufficiently plead any of the claims against them.
Lichterman said the judge should not allow Williams to amend the complaint.
But Daniel “Donny” Epstein, lead counsel for Williams, opposed the motion to dismiss, and contended that he should be permitted to amend the complaint.
“None of these change the allegations that we’re making,” Epstein said. “They just clarify and, perhaps, maybe would’ve avoided the motion.”
Baltimore Brew first reported about the lawsuit.
Dixon became the head men’s basketball coach of the Coppin State Eagles in 2017 and compiled a 51-131 record in six seasons. He was fired earlier this year.
In 2002, Dixon led the Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team to its first national championship. The Washington Wizards then selected him at No. 17 in the 2002 NBA draft.
His aunt, Sheila Dixon, served as mayor of Baltimore from 2007-2010 and is considering another run in 2024. Juan Dixon has also appeared on “The Real Housewives of Potomac” on Bravo TV.