Education

Inside Tay Anderson Lawsuit Over Sexual-Assault Claims

Tay Anderson at a late March press conference in which he denied sexual-assault allegations against him.
Tay Anderson at a late March press conference in which he denied sexual-assault allegations against him. Denver7 via YouTube
After an independent report released September 15 failed to substantiate sexual misconduct allegations against Denver Public Schools boardmember Tay Anderson that he'd denied for months, sources told Westword that Anderson was thinking about suing over the claims.

Insiders debated whether such a strategy would help Anderson resurrect his reputation (and give new life to the 23-year-old's political ambitions) by showing how confident he was in his innocence of the more serious charges — including the allegation made before the Colorado Legislature by Mary Katherine Brooks-Fleming that an individual quickly identified as Anderson had assaulted more than sixty students — or dredge up the most virulent contentions in ways that might backfire, as his pistol-centric meme of Bugs Bunny lazily chewing a carrot at gunpoint while saying "Do it bitch" had done.

In the end, however, Anderson decided to take the risk, and filed suit in Denver District Court on November 17. In an announcement of the filing, his attorney, Issa Israel, described it as "a million-dollar lawsuit for defamation and civil conspiracy against Black Lives Matter 5280, 'activist' Mary Katherine Brooks-Fleming, Dr. Apryl Alexander, members of BLM 5280’s leadership team and others for their respective roles in planning and publishing over sixty false allegations of sexual assault against Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson under the guise of advocating for 'anonymous' victims — all of whom were unwilling to come forward publicly, cooperate with law enforcement privately or respond to independent investigators."

Israel added: "Honestly, this is the kind of case that threatens one’s faith in humanity. To witness the extent that the Defendants were willing to go to exact revenge upon a young, promising community and political leader himself just a few years removed from high school is sickening."


Anderson also issued a statement about the filing that attempts to explain his thought process. "Eight months ago unsubstantiated, secondhand allegations were leveled against me, and my life immediately changed forever," he says. "In the aftermath, I have lost countless job opportunities, the safety of my family (including my seven-month-old son) and friends were placed directly into harm's way, and the work of Denver Public Schools was sidelined. I believe in restorative justice, but true restoration can only happen when both parties are willing to engage and take accountability for the harm they’ve caused. When that fails, I am left with no choice but to take the necessary steps through legal action to clear my name and to do everything in my power to ensure our students feel safe in their schools regardless of which Board member is present. I did not come to this decision lightly and it pains me to once again bring attention to this traumatic experience, but I'm a victim of false allegations that almost took my life. I am hopeful that this process affords me the opportunity to find a path forward and to continue the work to heal our community."
click to enlarge The Bugs Bunny meme. - INVESTIGATIONS LEGAL GROUP VIA DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The Bugs Bunny meme.
Investigations Legal Group via Denver Public Schools
These remarks avoided references to lynching that Anderson had made after the release of the report, assembled by the Investigations Law Group at the behest of the Denver Public Schools Board. But the suit, whose list of defendants includes former Parker town council candidate Jeeva Senthilnathan as well as others, goes there, and quickly.

"The Defendants, claiming to speak on behalf of an anonymous hoard of sexual assault victims each opposed to coming forward publicly or cooperating with law enforcement privately, have accused Anderson, a duly elected public official, of secretly moonlighting as the most prolific serial rapist in our nation’s history," states the introduction of the suit. "Defendant Black Lives Matter 5280 (“BLM 5280”) centered its allegations on an anonymous Black woman. After this claim began to falter, Defendant Mary Katherine Brooks-Fleming presented over sixty new allegations involving anonymous Latino DPS students. After Fleming’s allegations were debunked following an independent DPS investigation, Defendant Jeeva Senthilnathan presented a third wave of allegations this time centered on an untold number of anonymous White victims. Hence, the Defendants, through their trifecta of 'anonymous' allegations, targeted the exact three demographic groups that Anderson’s base is comprised of. Moreover, in reserving their dog-whistle of White rape victims for their last hoorah, they deliberately incited a backlash that for many hearkens back to the tragedy of Emmett Till."

The 38-page complaint takes pains to undermine the credibility of Anderson's various accusers, including Brooks-Fleming, who is said to have praised Anderson and invited him to attend an event after supposedly speaking with two of his rape victims. Here's a timeline from the suit:
• August 28, 2020, the first rape victim came to [Fleming’s] home at night in a 'catatonic' state. She had been anally raped requiring medical attention for anal fissures.

• September 4, 2020, the second rape victim appeared at [Fleming’s] home, with injuries that appeared to [Fleming] to have been several weeks old.

• October 6, 2020, [Fleming] posted the following Tweet praising Director Anderson "@TayAndersonCO takes risks being in the streets with protesters. He is a hero I am proud for my kids, my children as well as my protest kids, to look up to. He is a brave and worthy role model in this broken time."

• By the end of October 2020 [Fleming] had received 62 reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual misconduct by Director Anderson.
• November 1, 2020, [Fleming] sent a signal message to Director Anderson in a group chat titled "TA + WOM" (Tay Anderson + Wall of Moms), asking Director Anderson to speak at an event. She said, "Tay, any chance you’d like to speak at our event tomorrow? Remind everyone of the homeless kids in DPS? Or whatever you’d like to say."

• On May 30, 2020, 5 days after her testimony and after identifying the alleged perpetrators as Director Anderson, [Fleming] posted, "I NEVER SAID HUS [sic] NAME – TOLD YALL I WAS ON HIS SIDE [three skull emojis]."
The suit asks for a jury trial, which is definitely a risk, since questionable behavior to which Anderson has already admitted could get a fresh airing in court. Earlier this year, for instance, Anderson provided Westword with an apology to six female members of Never Again Colorado, a gun-control advocacy group, for allegedly creating a work environment that made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe back in 2018.

Westword has reached out to Black Lives Matter 5280, Brooks-Fleming and Senthilnathan for comment about the suit. Click to read Tay Anderson v. Black Lives Matter 5280, et al. and the Investigations Legal Group's Tay Anderson report.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts