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Third former NC State athlete sues school in sexual abuse case

A third former North Carolina State athlete has sued the school, claiming he was sexually abused under the guise of treatment by the Wolfpack’s former director of sports medicine.

The lawsuit, filed Friday about nine months after the initial lawsuit in federal court, accuses Robert Murphy Jr. of abusively touching the plaintiff’s genitals during two massages for hip and groin pain at school in Raleigh, North Carolina, in early 2021 to have. As with the second athlete who filed suit earlier this year, the plaintiff’s name is listed as “John Doe” to protect anonymity and it is not specified what sport he played.

The Title IX lawsuit alleges that the school failed in its “duty of reasonable care” to protect the plaintiff and was “deliberately indifferent” in responding to concerns about Murphy’s conduct. The complaint says the third athlete came forward after learning of similar allegations through previous lawsuits.

Former Wolfpack football player Benjamin Locke was the first to sue in late August. He accused Murphy of improperly touching his genitals during about 75 to 100 massages between August 2015 and May 2017, which Locke later said did not provide a “legitimate” medical necessity between August 2015 and May 2017. That lawsuit also alleged that former head coach Kelly Findley told a senior athletics official in February 2016 that Murphy “made contact … consistent with ‘nurturing behavior,'” but there was no follow-up from the school.

The Associated Press does not typically identify those who say they were sexually assaulted or abused, but Locke spoke out publicly.

The second athlete sued in February, accusing Murphy of abusively touching the athlete’s genitals and elsewhere between two separate occasions in 2016.

The allegations in the third complaint are similar. The athlete told a friend that he was uncomfortable with Murphy’s skin-to-skin contact with his genitals during the first massage and that he returned when the pain continued but did not seek further treatment from Murphy, the complaint states.

Durham, North Carolina-based attorney Kerry Sutton, who has handled numerous Title IX and sexual harassment cases, is representing all three clients. In a statement to The AP, Sutton said, “These men hope that each claim will encourage new victims and witnesses to come forward.”

Jared Hammett, a Raleigh-based attorney who works with Murphy, declined to comment when reached Friday. An attorney who previously worked with Murphy said Murphy “offered appropriate medical procedures … but nothing that was ever sexual in nature.”

In a statement, NC State said it was reviewing the lawsuit but could not comment further on pending litigation.

The school previously said Murphy, who arrived from Mercer in 2012, was placed on leave in January 2022 amid a Title IX investigation related to Locke’s allegations.

Locke’s complaint said he learned in June that Murphy was no longer working at NC State due to an “involuntary separation,” but did not specify the reasons. The Title IX investigation ultimately found that “a violation would have been established by a preponderance of the evidence” had Murphy remained, according to a letter to Locke from the school’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap