State, Baltimore County pay $100K to woman over handling of sex assault complaint

Bryan P. Sears//October 26, 2022

State, Baltimore County pay $100K to woman over handling of sex assault complaint

By Bryan P. Sears

//October 26, 2022

The settlement resolves a lawsuit against Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and others in which a woman contended that officials blocked her effort to file sexual assault charges against three male UMBC students. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

A state panel Wednesday voted to approved a settlement with a former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, student who alleged  officials, including Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, thwarted her efforts to file sexual assault charges against three male students.

Anna Borkowski will receive a total of $100,000 to settle the lawsuit filed four years ago that drew national attention. The request to approve the state’s $50,000 share of the overall payment drew strong comments from some members of the Board of Public Works.

“This is simply a matter of, if we could do our jobs, stay in our lane, we would not be giving away, we would not need to be giving away $50,000 of the people’s money,” said Treasurer Dereck Davis, one of three board members.

The state and county will each pay $50,000 to Borkowski, under terms of the settlement agreement obtained by The Daily Record.

Shellenberger said the amount from the county will not require approval of the Baltimore County Council.

Borkowski was one of five women in 2018 who filed a federal lawsuit against Shellenberger as well as Lisa Dever, an assistant state’s attorney in his office, the Baltimore County Police Department, UMBC and the University System of Maryland.

The Daily Record does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault. Borkowski has spoken publicly, including in a number of published interviews related to her case, which drew national attention.

Borkowski’s attorney also did not respond to a request for comment.

In the lawsuits, the women claimed the defendants mishandled sexual assault complaints and mistreated the women who filed those complaints. They also alleged that they were discouraged from making the allegations.

The cases became a focal point of an unsuccessful campaign by Robbie Leonard, a Baltimore attorney, to unseat Shellenberger.

Borkowski alleged she was threatened with the potential of lawsuits and criminal prosecution by Shellenberger’s office.

In 2018, she twice filed charges of sexual assault against three members of the UMBC men’s baseball team following an incident that she said occurred in her Towson apartment.

She said police and Shellenberger’s office thwarted her attempt to seek justice and held back warrants and did not pursue the case. Detectives went to the home of her grandmother to discourage Borkowski from pursuing charges.

U.S District Court Judge Deborah Chasnow dismissed complaints by four of the five women, leaving Borkowski. Chasanow also rejected claims by Shellenberger that he had qualified immunity and could not be sued.

Chasnow said county officials should have known they were not entitled to threaten or retaliate against a person seeking to file charges.

In an interview Wednesday, Shellenberger said the effort to warn Borkowski of the potential for criminal charges or a civil lawsuit was not meant as an effort to intimidate.

UMBC last year paid $450,000 to settle legal claims brought by the three baseball players, who claimed they were wrongfully accused and defamed by the student newspaper, The Retriever, which published their names.

Shellenberger said the prosecutor spoke “extensively” to Borkowski about her case. 

“It’s not the decision to not charge that was part of the lawsuit. It was our attempt to help her,” said Shellenberger. “That was the reason for the lawsuit.”

The county prosecutor said he simply was trying to warn Borkowski of the potential of criminal charges or a civil lawsuit filed by the alleged assailants. But Shellenberger said his office would “never stop” meeting with or talking to victims.

Shellenberger said the case will also make him think twice before attempting to warn someone of a potential lawsuit. 

Shellenberger said his office responded to the case by creating a more formal, documented process that includes in-person meetings between investigators and prosecutors. 

Borkowski and the defendants ultimately reached a settlement agreement in September just days before Shellenberger and others were to go to trial.

As part of that agreement, none of the defendants acknowledge any fault or wrongdoing.

The three-member board unanimously approved the state’s $50,000 payment.

“When you read the details of this settlement, this should not have occurred,” said Davis. “This should not have occurred, and as a result the people of Maryland are paying for something that should not have happened.”

“I could not just let this go by without making that comment and hopefully we won’t be in this position again,” he said.


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