Women reach settlement with Eastern Michigan fraternity over rape claims

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ten women have reached a settlement with one of the fraternities at Eastern Michigan University in a lawsuit over allegations that a series of sexual assaults took place on or near campus involving the Greek organization.

Federal court documents filed Wednesday show that the women, mostly former EMU students identified in court records as Jane Does, have reached an agreement with the local and national chapters of Delta Tau Delta. The fraternity will be dismissed from the case within 14 days, records show.

The lawsuit was filed in March, and began started with 10 women but grew to 24 people, including one man.

The other 13 women and the man did not bring claims against the fraternity but are pursuing claims against other defendants. Those include the national and local chapters of the Alpha Sigma Phi and Theta Chi fraternities, the Sigma Kappa sorority and EMU and several school officials.

The settlement between the 10 women and Delta Tau Delta is confidential,  said Bloomfield Hills-based lawyer Michael Weaver, one of the attorneys representing the women.

The Delta Tau Delta house near the campus of Eastern Michigan University on Sept. 14, 2021. Federal court documents filed Wednesday show that the women, mostly former EMU students identified in court records as Jane Does, have reached an agreement with the local and national chapters of Delta Tau Delta.

"It's in the best interest of our clients," said Weaver. "They are really traumatized and they need to put these things behind them if at all possible."

Officials representing the local and national chapters of Delta Tau Delta did not respond to requests for comment. Attorneys for the national fraternity asked a judge in October to dismiss the lawsuit because most of the claims occurred more than three years ago and are barred by the statute of limitations.

The alleged sexual assaults at Delta Tau Delta included a September 2016 incident where "Jane Doe 19" alleged an assault by two fraternity brothers, Thomas Hernandez and D'Angelo McWilliams. McWilliams later became a deputy for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department but has since been suspended. She said she was gang-raped by McWilliams and Hernandez. 

The woman accused McWilliams of flashing a badge before encouraging Hernandez, his roommate, as Hernandez raped her, shouting “Yeah bro yeah! Way to go bro!” He later forced the woman to perform oral sex on him, and while he did so Hernandez raped her from behind, according to the suit. The incident is one of two gang rapes the men are accused of inside the Delta Tau Delta frat house.

Fraternity brothers allegedly called the room inside the frat house where McWilliams and Hernandez lived "The Dog Pound” because of the dog howling sounds they made during the alleged assault of "Jane Doe 19," according to the lawsuit.

McWilliams and Hernandez are accused of a second gang rape involving "Jane Doe 18" in September 2016. Near the end of a Delta Tau Delta party, the woman felt ill and went to lie down on Hernandez's bed, with whom she had been involved romantically. When she awoke, she "became horrified as she realized that McWilliams was penetrating her from behind and Hernandez was penetrating her from the front," the lawsuit says.

Hernandez, 24, is facing three first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges and one criminal sexual conduct charge in the fourth degree, court records show. He has a probable cause conference scheduled for Thursday in Washtenaw County's 14A District Court. 

McWilliams, 26, is facing seven counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, among other charges. A pretrial hearing in 22nd Circuit Court in Washtenaw County is scheduled for  Jan. 13.

Another alleged incident at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house allegedly occurred in October 2018. "Jane Doe 13" was pledging Sigma Kappa sorority and was taken to the fraternity house after a night of drinking at two other parties. They drank more alcohol at Delta Tau Delta and one of the fraternity members ripped off her pants and began to rape her while others were present during a game of spin the bottle, according to the lawsuit. She said she was raped a second time that evening.

Also named in the lawsuit is former EMU Title IX Director Melody Werner, who left EMU for a job in Michigan State University's Office of Institutional Equity in November 2019 but has since retired, Kyle Martin, former Greek Life coordinator for the college and now vice president of campus operations at the North American Interfraternity Conference; the school's Board of Regents; school Police Chief Robert Heighes and former Deputy Chief Daniel Karrick.