Collins' lawyers answer lawsuit

Judge asked to set aside judgment against KU basketball player

Originally published June 19, 2008 at 2:37 p.m., updated June 20, 2008 at midnight

Attorneys for Kansas University basketball player Sherron Collins have filed a motion to set aside a default judgment against him in a civil lawsuit.

The motion filed in Douglas County District Court states that Collins, 21, did not intentionally ignore notices of the lawsuit when it was filed May 14. Instead, Collins thought a previously hired attorney was handling the matter and was not aware that attorney had terminated his attorney-client relationship.

In an affidavit as well as a draft of a response and counterclaim to the lawsuit, Collins denies the allegations that he assaulted the woman who filed the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Jessica J. Brown, a former employee at Jayhawker Towers, claimed that in May 2007 Collins exposed himself in an elevator and rubbed against her. She sought damages in excess of $75,000 for mental and physical problems.

"I am 100 percent innocent of any of the inappropriate behavior Ms. Brown alleges," Collins states in the affidavit. "I apologize for the confusion and I intended no disrespect to the court."

On Monday, Douglas County Judge Jack Murphy signed a journal entry granting the default judgment because Collins had not responded to the lawsuit in the 20 days since it had been filed as required by law. No specific amount for damages had been determined.

Chris Burger, one of the Lawrence attorneys representing Collins, said it was "especially unfortunate" that some publicity surrounding the lawsuit created "extremely prejudicial and false impressions" that concluded the court had acted on the merits of the case and ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

"It is unfortunate that people have been willing to believe the plaintiff's allegations simply because she has made them," he said. "When the merits are heard, they will prove Mr. Collins' innocence of these heinous allegations."

In a draft of the counterclaim, Collins maintains that Brown conveyed false information to third parties with intent to deprive him of the benefits of public confidence and social acceptance. Brown's allegations are "egregious and damaging" and "outrageous," the draft states. It also states Collins' intention to seek monetary damages from Brown.

Collins maintains in the affidavit signed Wednesday that he hired an attorney last summer when he was informed of Brown's allegations. He thought that attorney was getting copies of the recent documents he was receiving. The name of the attorney was not included in the affidavit. Collins said he was unaware that the attorney had sent him a letter saying that he no longer represented Collins.

In his motion, Collins' attorneys argue that legal standards for setting aside the judgment have been met. The law allows for instances of "mistakes, inadvertence : or inexcusable neglect."

The alleged incident has been under investigation by the Kansas University Public Safety Office since Brown reported it more than a year ago. Possible evidence is now being examined for the second time by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's crime lab. Brown's attorney, Jim Wisler, said this week the lawsuit was filed because the one-year statute of limitations in a civil case for such an incident was almost up.

Wisler didn't immediately respond to a message for comment left with his office Thursday afternoon. Brown has not been available for comment.

A court hearing to set damages had been scheduled for July 8. It was unclear whether Collins' motion, filed Wednesday and which became public Thursday, might mean there will be an earlier hearing. Murphy will decide Collins' motions.