Spring Hill College Enabled Violent Rape and Sodomy of Student by Failing to Implement Basic Security Measures in Resident Halls, New Lawsuit Claims

Apr 21, 2022

Spring Hill College and school officials named as defendants in case that shines light on school’s lax security protocols

MOBILE, Ala. – Spring Hill College failed to repair the locks on its residence hall doors and violated its own safety policies and procedures, enabling unauthorized individuals to access the buildings and resulting in the violent rape and sodomy of one of its female students, according to a new lawsuit filed today in Alabama federal court. Former Spring Hill student-athlete Audrey Cox was attacked on March 12, 2021, by fellow student, Vassil Kokali, who followed Cox home from a local bar, entered her unlocked residence hall without encountering any security, and raped and sodomized her in her own bed. Spring Hill is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the school’s Chief of Police, Public Safety & Security, Kevin Anderson; Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kenneth England; President Joseph Lee; and Vice President of Student Affairs, Kevin Abel. Kokali is already facing criminal prosecution for his crime with a jury trial set for June 7, 2022.

The lawsuit alleges that Spring Hill failed to provide a reasonably safe environment for its students, despite public statements promising that it would do so. These promises included that all residence halls were secure, that external doors were locked 24-hours a day with access limited to authorized students and personnel, and that regular patrols were conducted by campus public safety officers. Spring Hill’s failure to ensure even the most basic security measures, including that residence hall exterior door locks functioned properly, enabled Kokali’s attack on Cox, resulting in severe physical injuries and life-altering emotional trauma that caused “interference with and denial of educational and athletic opportunity.”

The complaint further alleges that Spring Hill was aware of issues involving sexual assaults that occurred in its residence halls well before March 2021. “According to Spring Hill’s Clery Act reports, in the six years leading up to the rape and sodomy of Plaintiff, from 2015-2020, the Spring Hill Defendants were on actual notice of at least 25 ‘sex offenses’—all of which occurred in its on-campus residential facilities.” Despite being informed, the college took no action to correct its security inadequacies or better protect the student body, failing to repair its residence hall locks until after Cox reported her attack.

“Spring Hill College not only has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of its students, but it regularly promoted campus safety as a selling point to prospective students and their families,” said Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and a partner at DiCello Levitt Gutzler. “This is a legal and moral failure of the highest magnitude, and the results have been catastrophic, both for our client and dozens of other students before her. Spring Hill turned a blind eye to its security inadequacies and failed to protect the campus community at even the most basic level. Audrey and all Spring Hill students deserve better.”

“While criminal responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Vassil Kokali for his atrocious crimes, maintenance, safety security measures that Spring Hill is required to provide would have prevented this life-altering event, and that is all on Spring Hill College,” said Kenneth P. Abbarno, a DiCello Levitt Gutzler partner and plaintiffs’ co-counsel.

Spring Hill College is a private, Jesuit college located in Mobile, Alabama. Vassil Kokali is an Italian national who continues to reside in Alabama. Kokali was a student-athlete attending Spring Hill at the time of the rape. In 2021, a grand jury indicted him on charges of first-degree rape of an incapacitated person, first-degree sodomy of an incapacitated person, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, sexual misconduct, and burglary.

The case is Audrey Cox v. Spring Hill College, Vassil Kokali, J.K. Anderson, Kenneth England, E. Joseph Lee II, and Kevin W. Abel, Case No. 1:22-cv-00161 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Mobile Division. A copy of the complaint is available upon request and the attorneys are available for media interviews.

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Media Contact:

Jason Milch

Baretz+Brunelle

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