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LSU student was raped before she was hit by car and died, police say

Louisiana State University student Madison Brooks. (Facebook/Dignity Memorial)

Four people were arrested this week in connection with the rape of 19-year-old Louisiana State University student Madison Brooks, who was then killed when she was hit by a car after the suspects dropped her off, authorities said.

Kaivon Washington, 18, and a 17-year-old male, who has not been named by police because he is a minor, have been charged with third-degree rape, according to charging documents obtained by The Washington Post. Casen Carver, 18, and Everett Lee, 28, are charged with principal to third-degree rape, meaning they were present but did not take part in the alleged crime.

All four suspects turned themselves in on Sunday and Monday. Attorneys for the suspects argue that their clients did not rape Brooks but rather had consensual sex. According to Louisiana law, third-degree rape usually involves a victim who is “incapable of resisting or of understanding the nature of the act by reason of a stupor or abnormal condition of mind produced by an intoxicating agent or any cause and the offender knew or should have known of the victim’s incapacity.”

In the early-morning hours of Jan. 15, Brooks, a sophomore from Madisonville, La., was drinking at a bar in Tigerland, a popular entertainment district in Baton Rouge near the LSU campus, when she left with the 17-year-old and the three other suspects, records show. The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office said surveillance video showed Brooks hanging out with the suspects at the bar and dancing with the teenager.

When Brooks asked for a ride home from Reggie’s Bar, Carver, who told investigators that he or the group did not know Brooks before that night, said the college student was “very unstable on her feet,” unable “to keep her balance” and “unable to speak clearly without slurring her words.” Washington also told authorities that Brooks was inebriated, saying, “She was drunk.” Deputies later said they were told Brooks asked for a ride home because she was too drunk and could not find her friends.

Not long after the group left the bar, the car pulled over. Washington and the teenager raped Brooks, while Carver and Lee looked on in the vehicle, according to authorities. When asked by police whether he believed Brooks was too drunk to consent to sex, Carver said, “I guess,” records show. Carver later told authorities that Brooks “gave verbal consent,” and claimed to police that Brooks consented after Washington asked multiple times for sex in the back seat. Washington denied having sex with Brooks, according to charging documents.

Carver, who was in the front seat with Lee at the time, eventually told the group, “We got to stop this, let’s go,” records show. The group dropped off Brooks in a subdivision and drove off, Carver said, according to investigators.

It was around 3 a.m., almost an hour after she had been dropped off, when Brooks was struck by a ride-share vehicle, authorities say. She was pronounced dead at a hospital. The ride-share driver, who called emergency personnel, was not charged, authorities said.

An autopsy report found that Brooks had a blood alcohol level of 0.319, which is nearly four times the legal limit for drivers. The autopsy, which found she tested positive for THC, also noted that Brooks had “injuries consistent with previous sexual assault.”

If convicted of the third-degree rape charge, Washington and the 17-year-old could face up to 25 years in prison, according to state law.

Ron Haley, an attorney for Washington and Lee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. Haley told WAFB in Baton Rouge that Brooks was not raped, arguing that the acts were consensual. He added that video of the encounter showed Brooks was in a coherent state at the time.

“She willfully got into the car, said that her rides had left her, and she got in,” Haley told the TV station. “After that point in time, there were consensual sexual acts done in that car with her and two other individuals at two separate times.” He added, “Can you tell that she was intoxicated, yes. To the point under the law that you say you’re in a drunken stupor, to the point that you cannot lawfully give consent or answer questions, absolutely that was not the case.”

Joe Long, an attorney for Carver, echoed Haley, telling the Advocate that Brooks’s case was a “tragedy but not a crime.”

“When all the evidence is known, everyone will see this was not a crime,” Long said.

Long declined to comment to The Post, but pointed to a New York Post story stating how Brooks occasionally worked at Reggie’s. The attorney also shared a photo with The Post that Brooks posted to her social media of her and two friends with a caption reading, “3 little Reggie’s workers.” It’s unclear whether Brooks ever worked at the bar.

Following Brooks’s death, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control announced that Reggie’s Bar was given an emergency suspension.

“This action immediately suspends the service or sale of alcoholic beverages at this location,” the agency said in a statement, according to WDSU in New Orleans. The agency said it is working with law enforcement to investigate the case and other recent incidents at the bar, and will hold an emergency session next month to determine whether Reggie’s should face any penalties. A message left at Reggie’s was not immediately returned.

Records on Wednesday morning show Carver and Lee were released from jail. Both must wear ankle monitors and remain under house arrest, WBRZ reported. Washington and the 17-year-old remained in jail as of Wednesday, records show. Washington is being held on a $150,000 bond, while the teenager is being held in a juvenile jail pending a court hearing.

The news of Brooks’s death has rocked the LSU community, which has suffered other tragedy in recent years. In 2017, LSU student Max Gruver, 18, died of alcohol poisoning after he was forced to drink as part of fraternity hazing. In 2019, Matthew Naquin, then a 21-year-old former LSU student, was convicted of negligent homicide for his role in Gruver’s death. In September, Allison Rice, a 21-year-old senior, was fatally shot in her car in what authorities believe was a random attack.

Brooks, who studied at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, was described by her Alpha Phi sorority sisters as “a bubbly, loving, and selfless friend.”

“She was also a hero and was able to donate her heart and kidneys to save others,” the sorority wrote on Instagram. “We send our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this incredibly difficult time.”

In a Monday statement, LSU president William Tate IV remembered Brooks as “a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece, a classmate, and a friend to many of you.” Tate said the university would meet with the owners of local bars and “any establishment that profits off our students by providing alcohol to underage individuals” to see what can be done to improve safety around LSU.

“By all accounts, she was an amazing young woman with limitless potential. She should not have been taken from us in this way,” Tate said. “What happened to her was evil, and our legal system will parcel out justice.”