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Lawyer for two jailed in Madison Brooks rape case files defamation suit against Nancy Grace

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ORLEANS PARISH - A lawyer for two men arrested in the rape of LSU student Madison Brooks is suing media personality Nancy Grace over comments she made during her broadcasts. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Casen Carver and Everett Lee, aims to collect damages for defamation from Nancy Grace, Fox News Network, iHeartMedia and Ashley Baustert — Madison Brooks' mother. 

The lawsuit says that Nancy Grace did multiple stories on Brooks' case and strayed from facts reported by the WBRZ Investigative Unit and other media outlets. 

Jan. 15, 2023, 19-year-old Brooks was hit by a rideshare driver and killed after a night of heavy drinking at a Tigerland bar. Documents said Brooks blood-alcohol level was .319 at the time of her death.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit learned that before her death, Brooks left Reggie's bar and got in a vehicle with Casen Carver, Everett Lee, Kaivon Washington and a 17-year-old who was later identified as Desmond Carter. Washington told WBRZ that both he and Desmond Carter had consensual sex with Brooks in the vehicle while Carver and Lee were in the front seats. Washington said that Brooks asked to go home, but she gave the group multiple addresses before getting out of the car near the Pelican Lakes subdivision. After she was dropped off, she wandered onto Burbank Drive. 

According to the lawsuit, Grace was on a Fox News show promoting her special, "Left for Dead: The Madison Brooks Story," and claimed that the four men sexually assaulted Brooks and then pushed her out of a car.

“She gets into a car with people she doesn’t really know that well, she ends up being horribly sex assaulted, they push her out on the highway, she gets run over and killed. I want felony murder charges on all of those young men and that has not happened yet," the document said.

On January 27, Grace published a podcast, sponsored by iHeartRadio, that included an explanation of Carver and Lee's principal to third-degree rape charges. During a podcast four months later, Grace alleged that Carver and Lee got into the backseat and sexually assaulted Brooks. 

“They gave very detailed statements about what happened to Madi, in fact, the ones in the front seat rotating into the back seat so they can also assault her," she said during a podcast which featured Brooks' mother Ashley Baustert. 

The lawsuit alleges that due to Grace's previous statements about the charges, it proves that Grace has a "reckless disregard for the truth."

The lawsuit also lists Baustert as a defendant due to comments made on Nancy Grace's show. 

“I’m pleased and would like to see an additional negligent homicide charge as well, especially for the driver, who dropped her off in that condition because that’s inevitably what killed her was being put in that situation," Baustert said. 

Lawyers say that due to these remarks made on a national scale, there will not be a fair jury in East Baton Rouge Parish. 

Initially, Washington and Carter were arrested and booked with third-degree rape. Carver and Lee were booked for principal to third-degree rape. 

In Louisiana, third-degree rape occurs “when the victim is incapable of resisting or of understanding the nature of the act by reason of a stupor or abnormal condition of mind produced by an intoxicating agent or any cause and the offender knew or should have known of the victim's incapacity.”

After grand jury hearings, Carver, Washington and Carter were formally charged with first-degree rape and video voyeurism. Carver was charged with an additional count of third-degree rape. Everett Lee was never formally charged. 

State law says first-degree rape occurs when two or more offenders take part. In its definition of "participation," the law notes both taking part in the actual rape or to "physically assist in the commission of such act."

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