WACO, Texas — Former Baylor University President Ken Starr said Tuesday that he raised money on behalf of a former Baylor football player who was recently acquitted of sexual assault.
Starr told the Waco Tribune-Herald that he hosted a fundraiser at his home for the legal defense fund of Shawn Oakman, a former star defensive end for the Bears who was acquitted of rape last month. Starr says he couldn't remember when the gathering was held. Oakman, now 26, has said he wants to enter the NFL.
Starr was fired as Baylor's president in 2016, after an outside investigation determined there was a "fundamental failure" in the way the school responded to sexual assault allegations. Two other football players at the time were convicted of sexual assault: Tevin Elliott in 2014 and Sam Ukwuachu in 2015.
The scandal surrounding the football team resulted in the firing in 2016 of then-football coach Art Briles and the resignation of Athletic Director Ian McCaw. The university since then has settled several lawsuits from women who said their allegations of sexual assault by football players were mishandled or ignored. Baylor officials settled a federal lawsuit last year involving a former volleyball player who said she was drugged and gang raped by members of the football team in 2012. A former Baylor student accused of raping a woman at a fraternity party was granted a plea deal in December that let him avoid serving jail time.
Starr told the newspaper he decided to raise the money after one of Oakman's first attorneys told him that Oakman's family didn't have the money to retain experts who could testify in his defense. Starr declined to say how much was raised.
Donors wanted to help Oakman because of a "widely shared belief" that Ukwuachu was unable to mount an adequate defense in his 2015 trial, he said. Ukwuachu's conviction was overturned on appeal in 2017, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals a year later reinstated the conviction.
"We responded to this compelling need because our community had done little or nothing to assist or support Sam Ukwuachu, who many of us felt had been wrongly convicted," Starr said. "I did not want another injustice to be done.