LEXINGTON — Current and former University of Kentucky football players have filed suit against a Lexington cop who initiated false charges to frame and defame them after Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity members subjected them to racial slurs and physical assault.
Attorneys for the football players say the false charges led to their temporary suspensions from the team, harmed their football, educational and professional careers, and damaged their names, images and likenesses.
Lexington Police Officer and University of Louisville graduate Cory Vinlove is accused of making false charges without probable cause following the attack by Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity members, leading to a torrent of social media and other public abuse against the football players.
In March of 2021, Reuben Adams, JuTahn McClain, Andru Phillips, Devito Tisdale and Joel Williams were University of Kentucky student athletes. Adams, Phillips, Tisdale, and Williams attended a party, hosted by the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, where members and guests of the fraternity hurled racial slurs toward and physically assaulted some of the young, African American men. McClain was not in attendance.
Each of the players cooperated with the criminal investigation. Despite learning from the beginning of the investigation that it was members and guests of the fraternity who verbally and physically assaulted the players, Lexington Police Officer Vinlove refused to charge the culpable individuals — the white fraternity members and guests — and instead set out to make a name for himself, initiating false felony charges against the players. To that end, Vinlove fabricated evidence in a sworn affidavit, ignored evidence exculpating the players, and testified falsely to intentionally mislead the judicial system. The Lexington Police Department later issued a nationwide press release including the fabricated allegations against the teammates. As Plaintiff DeVito Tisdale describes, “I want justice for every day they ran down my name.”
Defendants’ misconduct had a devastating impact upon the players and their families. As Plaintiff R.J. Adams and his parents Lisa and Rueben explain:
“We are pursuing this lawsuit because our son was unjustly accused of a crime he did not commit. He was targeted and victimized by the criminal justice system of the Lexington Police Department, specifically Det. Vinlove, his supervisors, and the Police Chief. The remnants of this unjust act continues to have an impact on my son and our family. RJ was ostracized on campus, in the city of Lexington, in our hometown of VA, and on social media. We are seeking justice, accountability, and an apology for the false charges brought against him when he was a victim of a racial attack.”
A Fayette County Grand Jury correctly determined that the “evidence” presented by Officer Vinlove against the players was false and fabricated. On September 28, 2021, the grand jurors returned a no true bill and dismissed the charges against each of the young men.
“This lawsuit is another tragic example of the damage caused by corrupt policing in America. It is shocking how Officer Cory Vinlove, in spite of objective evidence and the University of Kentucky’s thorough investigation, damaged so many lives. As the lawsuits demonstrate, these five young black men were targeted by a white officer with an axe to grind and determined to make a name for himself,” said Elliot Slosar, one of football players’ attorneys at Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based civil rights law firm.
“The false initiation of charges stripped these players of their innocence and prevented them from enjoying college and playing football for the University of Kentucky, a program they love. Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to get justice for the damage caused and to hold Defendant Vinlove and others accountable for their egregious misconduct.”
Although the players were immediately reinstated to the football team, the false allegations and nationwide publicity that followed had a devastating impact on their football and educational careers, their mental health and well-being, and their name, image, and likeness.
Said Amy Robinson Staples, another of the players’ attorneys at Loevy & Loevy, “The impact the false allegations and charges have had upon these young men has been severe. Instead of focusing on their education and football careers, they have been forced to defend themselves not only in the criminal justice system but also in the court of public opinion. It is our hope that these lawsuits assist in rebuilding the reputations of each of the men falsely charged and in preventing similar future misconduct.”
If indicted, each wrongfully-accused player would have faced a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Mr. Adams, McClain, Phillips, Tisdale, and Williams are each represented by Elliot Slosar, Amy Robinson Staples and Margaret Campbell of the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms and has won more multi-million-dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.