The state of Arizona paid $999,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former track and field athlete Baillie Gibson, a Natrona County graduate, against the University of Arizona and a former assistant coach. The settlement comes after the state spent nearly three times that amount to defend the case.
Former University of Arizona throws coach Craig Carter was sentenced to five years in prison last May after a Pima County jury convicted him of two felony counts of aggravated assault, stemming from a 2015 incident in his office at McKale Center. Carter admitted to University of Arizona police that he grabbed thrower Gibson by the throat while holding a box cutter in his other hand and threatening to cut her face. The pair had been involved in a yearslong sexual relationship that Gibson said was not consensual.
Gibson sued Carter and the university in November 2015, saying that school officials knew about the relationship but failed to intervene. In her preliminary claim filed with the state, Gibson asked the university to settle the case for $2.5 million.
Carter and his wife filed a counterclaim in March 2016, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress by Gibson. The couple later sued Gibson’s lawyer, Lynne Cadigan, for defamation. That case is not part of the settlement.
The settlement agreement between the university and Gibson includes a “no admission of liability” clause.
“The University of Arizona prohibits all forms of sex discrimination, which includes sexual violence, and we widely publicize resources and avenues available for students and employees who need help and support,” University of Arizona spokesman Chris Sigurdson said Friday on behalf of the university. “In this case, when we knew, we acted. As soon as the student-athlete informed us of Carter’s actions, we immediately turned that information over to law enforcement and began the process of terminating him.”
After university staff became aware of the situation, they worked with Gibson and her advocate “on accommodations for her education and well-being,” Sigurdson said.
“We take great pride in working with students to see them reach their potential. We hope the closure of this case will help Ms. Gibson move forward and we wish her a successful life.”
Because Carter was a state employee, his defense in the civil suit was paid for by the taxpayer-funded Arizona Department of Administration’s Risk Management Division.
As of March 23, the state had paid $2.65 million to defend Carter, the University of Arizona and former athletic director Greg Byrne. Byrne was dismissed from the case in 2017, according to public records.
Several private law firms were involved in the defense. The Tucson firm of Munger, Chadwick and Denker billed the state a total of $1.48 million for work performed through Jan. 31. The firm of Rusing, Lopez and Lizardi was hired by the university in October 2017 to take over the case for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. For work performed through March 6, the firm had billed the state $1.08 million.
Thorpe Shwer, the firm defending Byrne while he was a party to the suit, billed the state $87,120.
Those billing totals will likely go up, as the last few months’ worth of bills were not included in the latest response to a public records request.
Attorneys are no longer billing the state for their time. But because of billing schedules, the state could still get another invoice or two, Arizona Department of Administration spokeswoman Megan Rose said.
Cadigan said Friday that she waived her attorney’s fees so Gibson could get “fair compensation.”
“There’s something wrong with a system that pays more in attorney’s fees than compensating victims of a crime,” Cadigan told the Arizona Daily Star.
Gibson graduated from Natrona County in 2010. She still holds the Wyoming girls overall state meet records for discus throw and shot put, both set her senior year. Gibson earned the Milward Simpson Award, given to the state’s best high school athlete, in 2010.
In 2017, she publicly accused Carter of sexual assault and stalking in an ESPN “Outside the Lines” story. According to that story, she had since returned to Casper.
Star-Tribune staff also contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt