Five cheerleaders take a knee during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s matchup between Kennesaw State and North Greenville on Sept. 30, 2017.

A lawsuit brought by a former Kennesaw State University cheerleader against KSU, the Cobb County sheriff and former state Rep Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has almost been resolved.

An out-of-court settlement has been made between plaintiff Tommia Dean and the KSU defendants in the case, including then-KSU President Sam Olens.

Dean, who took a knee with four other other KSU cheerleaders during the national anthem at a KSU football game in September 2017, claimed she suffered backlash and emotional distress afterwards.

The gesture was part of a wider movement protesting police brutality against African Americans, but many people, including Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, found it disrespectful.

Dean claimed that Olens was influenced by Warren and Ehrhart in his decision to keep the cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem at KSU’s next two home games.

She claimed Warren and Ehrhart were racially motivated in their complaints to Olens about the cheerleaders’ public protest, and that she had since suffered more migraines and emotional stress.

In February, a federal judge dismissed Ehrhart and Warren as defendants in the case, finding no evidence they acted with racial animus.

That order was then appealed by Dean’s lawyers, who later also separately settled with KSU during private mediation.

No parties in the case were able or willing to disclose the settlement amount to the MDJ on Friday.

Dean and other parties filed an “unopposed joint motion for voluntary dismissal” in the case at the end of October, effectively voiding the lawsuit in relation to everyone except Warren, court documents show.

The sheriff is still subject to an appeal by Dean and her lawyers of the judge’s order dismissing him from the case.

Bruce Brown, an attorney representing Dean, said he could not disclose the KSU settlement amount, but confirmed the case is all but over, save the appeal regarding Warren.

“Yes, Ms. Dean settled with all of the defendants except for Mr. Warren,” Brown told the MDJ Friday. “I am not at liberty to give you details about the settlement. And, yes, we are appealing the order dismissing Warren to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.”

A spokesman for the Cobb sheriff’s office told the MDJ Warren is unable to comment on the lawsuit.

Ehrhart, who was chair of the state House committee in charge of funding for Georgia’s universities at the time the five KSU cheerleaders took a knee, said he is thrilled Dean’s “slanderous accusations” are a thing of the past.

“It is a total and complete exoneration of me, and an absolute loss and embarrassment to the plaintiff and the lawyers who were trounced by the court for their ridiculous and false claims,” Ehrhart said of the Nov. 4 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to dismiss the case.

“The courts and Judge Batten have thrown out the meritless, politically motivated lawsuit against me and justice has prevailed,” Ehrhart said. “My counsel crushed the political hack attorneys hired by the KSU cheerleader to perpetrate this fraud and character assassination.”

Ehrhart said he refused to consider any settlement, monetary or verbal, in the case and “ultimately prevailed on all issues.”

He and his lawyers were not party to the KSU settlement, but they also did not oppose the subsequent joint motion for voluntary dismissal in the case.

“I was not going to cave in to a political hit job and a monetary extortion scheme for state money,” Ehrhart said.


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(7) comments

Mike Nelson

Taking a knee, these girls were a joke! Just jumping on the bandwagon.

Earl Ehrhart

Attorney Bruce Brown just cannot help himself and he continues to lie about this case. He states from the article that "Ms Dean settled with all the defendants". This is absolutely UNTURE, as I refused to settle, and become a victim of the extortion of state taxpayer money based on their lies. Ms Dean and her lawyer had their entire case against me thrown out court because it was all a lie from the beginning, and they were crushed by my lawyers and the truth at the earliest stage of the trial. Trying to parse this with the concept of my not opposing their utter abdication filing is hilarious and pathetic. They were crushed by Justice, and forced to walk away in my case, with absolutely nothing but shame!

Earl Ehrhart

Since I was not asked this question, and the story states "no one was willing to disclose the settlement amount", I will be glad to tell the taxpayers how much of their money was extorted ! The last extortion threat from Bruce Brown to myself and lawyers was over 150K. I told them where they could put their 150K threat. This is why my name is not on any settlement. They can characterize it as my not opposing the joint appeal sign off all they want. However, I could not affect it anyway, so that is a canard designed to make it look like even I agreed. HOGWASH! They tried to get me to sign that ridiculous paper as well. I suggested it belonged in the same place as their extortion demand. They went away in a hissy fit. Since someone settled, the only logical conclusion is Brucie and company and Ms. Dean got at least that much of the peoples money. How very sad ! The state needs to put a stop to this easy racket for cash grubbing plaintiffs and hack lawyers.

Marie Lee

Maybe if you cared about the First Amendment and weren't so adamant about depriving people of their civil rights , you wouldn't have wasted taxpayer money.

Jonathan Crumly

You should study a little more diligently. The cheerleaders were not exercising any protected speech when they protested in KSU uniforms on a restricted area of a government owned building. Government at all levels are fully justified in restricting speech in such circumstances since a football field is not a traditional public forum or even a restricted public forum.

Also, the political motivation of the lawsuit was clear - Bruce Brown sued the KSU Defendants for alleged violations by government actors under color of law. He explicitly refused to allege the same thing against Sheriff Warren or Rep. Ehrhart. Instead, he asserted vile and slanderous claims under the KKK Act which has zero application in these circumstances.

To have Brown's vile allegations thrown out of court at the motion to dismiss stage is a clear indication of the utter lack of merit to the claim.

Rich the Equalizer Pellegrino

Ha ha ha...it is hilarious for Ehrhart to complain so much and so ridiculously ("methinks he protesteth too much"...lol). Doesn't he remember that it was his complaining and whining, together with Warren's, and subsequent pressure on Olens to bench the cheerleaders (aka corrupt backroom good ole boy Cobb racist collusion...aka the old "Cobb way") which brought down Olens and the whole KSU administration and put control of KSU's direct in the hands of the cheerleaders and their KSUTakeAKnee organization composed of many student, staff, faculty, alumni, and community supporters, including the Cobb SCLC, and this writer. We have now brought in our own administration including a new Chief Diversity Officer, who will not tolerate the likes of Warren, Ehrhart, and Olens again. This is what Ehrhart is really upset about....that his and his cronies' antics in this regard lost them and their allies any influence and control over KSU and that they were beat and beat up by a handful of cheerleaders!

Johanna Williams

@Richie The Spoiler

Hey Richie, the failing Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren campaigns are looking for a "Chief Diversity Officer." We recommended you as a replacement.

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