JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Jaguars training camp two weeks out, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus finds himself fending off two lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault.
The first lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough County by an unnamed woman, who alleges Dareus assaulted her on or about Jan. 7, 2017, while she was "blacked out" at a party hosted at a Tampa-area mansion the player was renting.
The suit, which seeks damages exceeding $15,000, states the woman suffered a range of damages, including physical injuries, emotional and mental distress, diminished earning power and a loss of the enjoyment of life.
Dareus, 28, is set to appear in court Aug. 9 for a hearing on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It argues the suit is riddled with "factual inconsistencies and incorrect statements of law," adding that it "fails to allege facts necessary" to bring claims of battery and assault against Dareus.
Attorney Steven Weizenecker, who represents Dareus, did not respond on Wednesday and Thursday to multiple requests by phone and email for comment. The player’s agent referred a reporter’s questions to a Jaguars spokesperson, who declined comment. Attempts to reach the NFL were unsuccessful.
The suit states the woman met Dareus at a nightclub in downtown Tampa and was invited to an after party at a mansion known as Villa Adriana, where partygoers were treated to performances from a DJ and "10-12 strippers" as well as a generous supply of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana.
At some point in the night, the suit alleges, Dareus approached the woman in the kitchen and groped her, but she spurned his advances. She states the last thing she remembers from the night is being led to a master bedroom by another man with Dareus trailing closely behind.
The next thing the woman knew, she woke up in a bed partially naked with her clothes disheveled and a sleeping Dareus lying naked next to her, the complaint states. It goes on to say that’s when “she began to immediately realize that there had been sexual physical acts upon her person.”
The woman said she got a ride back to her hotel afterward and kept the details of the episode to herself until “she finally gathered the courage to come forth” several months later.
The second lawsuit, as first reported Wednesday by News4Jax, was filed July 6 in Duval County by an unidentified Texas woman, who accuses Dareus of having sex with her while she was unconscious and giving her a sexually transmitted disease three months ago. It seeks damages in excess of $15,000.
On or about April 7, the suit states, the pair went on a date in Houston and then returned to a hotel room to spend the night. It alleges she woke up in pain the following morning, but could not remember anything that happened after they ordered room service – but Dareus told her they had sex.
Over the next couple days, the pair had unprotected sex on multiple occasions, but "at no time did Defendant ever mention that he had a sexually transmitted disease," according to the complaint. It goes on to state the woman was diagnosed with herpes after seeing a doctor later that week.
It doesn’t appear the second complaint ever resulted in criminal charges. News4Jax was unable to confirm through the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office or the woman’s attorneys whether she ever filed a police report about it.
Legal observers who reviewed the lawsuits at the request of News4Jax pointed out that professional athletes often face dubious or unfounded allegations, noting that anyone can file a civil lawsuit over anything they want.
Suing someone without filing a criminal complaint raises questions about the accuser’s credibility, said attorney Gene Nichols, who has no affiliation to either of the cases. He said the timing of the lawsuits will also be called into question.
"Filing a lawsuit before any criminal charges is always going to be suspect for anyone. If they have not even pursued a criminal charge for the sexual allegations, the non-consensual allegations, it would be concerning to anybody who would be representing Mr. Dareus," Nichols said.
Dareus played in nine games for the Jaguars last season, piling up 18 tackles and a sack after he was acquired in a trade with Buffalo in late October. He's set to earn as much as $10,175,000 in 2018.