Tay Anderson sues for defamation over unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations

Denver school board member Tay Anderson filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against local nonprofit Black Lives Matter 5280, its leadership and two other people who accused him of perpetrating sexual assault — claims an independent investigation found to be unsubstantiated.

The lawsuit filed in Denver District Court is the latest development in an eight-month saga that began in March when Black Lives Matter 5280 claimed in a written statement on social media that a woman who wished to remain anonymous had approached the organization and accused Anderson of sexually assaulting her.

The allegation — and others that followed — eventually led Denver Public Schools to commission an independent investigation into Anderson’s behavior. In September, the investigators issued a report saying they could not substantiate any of the sexual assault allegations against Anderson.

They did, however, say they discovered that Anderson had flirted online with a 16-year-old student and penned “coercive” social media posts, behavior that the school board deemed “unbecoming of a board member.” Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education board subsequently censured Anderson.

“Armed with no evidence, no victims, no witnesses and only baseless accusations conjured from their own twisted minds, defendants laid siege to Anderson’s life and reputation such that within months the once sanguine and energetic young Anderson shrank into a dejected, listless version of himself struggling against the impulse to end his own life,” the lawsuit reads.

In addition to Black Lives Matter 5280 and its leadership, Anderson also names DPS parent Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming as a defendant in the lawsuit. Brooks Fleming testified before a state legislative committee in May that she was aware of 62 students who had been sexually assaulted, raped or subjected to sexual misconduct by Anderson, though she did not name him in her speech at the time. The school board later said Brooks Fleming had been referring to Anderson.

The school district’s independent investigation found Brooks Fleming’s claims to be “objectively implausible on their face.”

Anderson did not return a request for comment Wednesday and his attorney, Issa Israel, declined to comment.

“I did not come to this decision lightly and it pains me to once again bring attention to this traumatic experience, but I’m a victim of false allegations that almost took my life,” Anderson said on Twitter.

In the lawsuit, Anderson alleges he suffered more than $1 million in damages, and alleges that leaders at Black Lives Matter 5280 put out false information about him because they didn’t want to share “the proverbial spotlight” with him in activism circles.

Representatives for Black Lives Matter 5280 and defendants Apryl Alexander, Amy Brown, Ari Lipscomb and Michael Diaz Rivera — identified in the lawsuit as BLM 5280 leadership — did not return requests for comment Wednesday. Brooks Fleming did not return a request for comment.

Defendant Jeeva Senthilnathan’s attorney, Ruchi Kapoor, said Wednesday she had not spoken to her client about the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Senthilnathan is a college student who has unsuccessfully run for Parker Town Council and is active in social justice causes. In October, she posted a lengthy Facebook video and statement in which she talked about Anderson’s treatment of women. She later said that Anderson’s lawyer had sent her a cease-and-desist letter and threatened to sue her.

Senthilnathan then posted her own lawyer’s letter in response that said his threats of a lawsuit were meritless and only an attempt to chill free speech.

“Because you remain a publicly elected official, despite the school board’s vote to censure you in September 2021, the burden remains on you to prove actual damages resulting from Ms. Senthilnathan’s statements,” Kapoor wrote at the time.

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