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.