JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) – John Haynes was ready to become a Trojan. Haynes, a Georgia native, had visited multiple universities, carefully considering where he’d bring his talent as a long snapper and pursue his undergraduate degree. A video call with Troy’s coaches had helped seal the deal. Haynes was a “Troy kind of guy,” the coaches said. Haynes had made his decision.
Two years later, after Haynes faced months of alleged physical and verbal abuse from a teammate, Jack Dawson, he’s no longer at Troy University. Long before he’d expected it, his life as a Trojan was over.
Jack Dawson, now a punter on the Jacksonville State University football team, faces three arrest warrants for assault and a federal lawsuit stemming from allegations that he verbally harassed and physically abused former teammate John Haynes during their time at Troy University in 2020. That abuse, which Haynes said was the result of players’ perception that he was homosexual, “ranged from verbal harassment, which include[d] sexual statements and homophobic slurs, to molestation and violence, ultimately culminating with the forced sodomy of [John Haynes] with a pool cue.”
For Haynes, though, the wheels of justice have turned slowly, if at all. The criminal warrants for Dawson’s arrest have gone unserved since October when they were issued, court officials and online records confirm.
A lawyer for Dawson, Mary-Ellen Bates, said Friday she is not yet in a position to discuss the factual allegations surrounding the case. She said, however, that the claims outlined in Haynes’ federal lawsuit are “simply allegations.” Neither Dawson nor Jacksonville State University knew about the warrants against the Australian-born player until CBS 42 contacted them last week, the lawyer claimed. Jacksonville State University and its athletic department have not responded to request for comment as of this article’s publication.
Jack Dawson is not the only individual implicated in Haynes’ alleged abuse and its aftermath. The federal lawsuit filed by Haynes lists Coaches Brian Blackmon, Jamaal Smith, and Dayne Brown as defendants. These coaches, the lawsuit claims, had “actual knowledge” of the harassment against Haynes. Blackmon, Smith, and Brown “believed John was being sexually harassed because he was homosexual…and chose not to intervene on behalf of John because of [their] perception of John’s sexuality,” according to Haynes’ complaint.
Brown and Smith continue to work at Troy University, according to its website. Blackmon, a former member of Gus Malzahn’s Auburn staff, moved to a position at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in February 2021, according to an announcement from the school at the time. As of Monday, none of the coaches has responded to request for comment on the allegations.
Haynes’ lawsuit also lists Troy University as a defendant. The university, the complaint claims, “created an environment in which such misconduct was tolerated, thus encouraging continued and repeated intimidation, sexual harassment, and gender-based harassment thus proximately causing injury to [Haynes].” Such “deliberate indifference” toward Haynes’ rights, the suit says, violated federal law. In a statement, Troy University Director of Communications Matt Clower said that the institution denies all allegations made in the lawsuit “and will vigorously defend itself in court.”
Becoming a Trojan
By late spring of 2020, John Haynes had narrowed down his choice of college to two institutions: Troy University and Bowling Green University. Both schools offered Haynes a preferred walk-on position.
It was Haynes’ video call with Troy coaches Brian Blackmon and Chip Lindsey, he said, that pushed him in the Trojan direction.
Haynes said the coaches told him he was a “Troy kind of guy.” The sentiment was enough to lock in Haynes’ choice: he would head west, over the Georgia-Alabama line.
Once Haynes had enrolled at Troy, he said that Coaches Blackmon and Lindsey let him know that they’d been successful in recruiting Jack Dawson, an Australian, to punt for the team. Dawson would be Haynes’ suitemate, the coaches said, and they hoped that Haynes may be able to provide a place for Dawson to stay during holiday breaks.
Haynes arrived at Troy in July, he said, and Dawson arrived in August. The pair’s relationship would quickly sour.
The start of the semester
“Almost immediately,” Haynes’ federal lawsuit claims, Dawson began harassing him.
“Dawson consistently yelled and banged on John’s door while he was sleeping, both early in the morning and late at night throughout the semester,” the complaint said. “On at least one occasion, Dawson came back to the dorm room drunk and broke a beer bottle on John’s door.”
By the end of August, Haynes was forced to head home after contracting COVID-19. Haynes’ parents, the lawsuit claims, began to notice changes in their son’s attitude and behavior.
“While home, Mr. Haynes and Mrs. Haynes noticed that John was beginning to experience depression and anxiety due to the treatment by Dawson and other teammates,” the complaint said. He’d had to visit a team doctor, he said, who prescribed him antidepressants and anxiety medication. Depression and anxiety, Haynes said, was something he’d never been through before attending Troy.
According to the lawsuit, in September, Coach Blackmon called Haynes and told him to return to Troy for football practice whether he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or not.
“John returned to school on September 11, 2020, despite still having symptoms,” the lawsuit claims.
By October 2020, Dawson’s alleged harassment of Haynes quickly escalated.
Haynes’ 29-page lawsuit claims that on one occasion, while Haynes was taking a make-up math exam in his dorm room, Dawson entered the room, exposed his genitals near Haynes’ face and made crude comments of a sexual nature. Once Haynes forced Dawson to leave, the lawsuit claims, the punter banged on Haynes’ door for the remainder of Dawson’s exam, yelling sexual comments and homophobic slurs.
Similar incidents occurred three more times in October 2020, the lawsuit alleges. Once, Dawson touched Haynes’ head with his genitals, Haynes claims. On two occasions, Dawson exposed himself after breaking into Dawson’s locked dorm, something he did “on a regular basis,” according to the complaint.
“Each time Dawson exposed himself to John, he directed homophobic slurs at him,” the lawsuit said.
The same month, Haynes claims, Dawson’s harassment moved to the football field. During practice, Dawson began tackling Haynes at random, at times when tackling was not part of the drills. The incident, Haynes said, was witnessed by Coach Brown, who did not intervene.
“On many occasions during stretching, Dawson would wait until John was in the hamstring stretch (standing with legs apart and hands on the ground) and come up behind John and ‘hump’ him by thrusting his groin into John,” according to the lawsuit.
During this time, Haynes said his depression and anxiety – like the harassment he was experiencing at the hands of Dawson and other teammates – were worsening.
“He became increasingly despondent,” the complaint said. “Often, John would call his parents multiple times a day to tearfully complain about Dawson.”
The Hayneses even reached out to a local church to try to get help and support for their son, according to the complaint, and tried as early as October to meet with coaches about the increasingly violent situation.
Haynes claims that the initial meeting scheduled with the coaches was set to take place after Troy’s first home football game of the season on October 10, 2020. Days before the game, Haynes said he spoke to Coaches Dayne Brown and Brian Blackmon to arrange the meeting. But that day, after Troy had beaten Texas State, 37-17, Haynes said, the coaches did not show up.
A week later, Haynes’ parents had arranged another meeting, the lawsuit claims, and again, the coaches did not show. Around this time, at a Troy home game, Haynes said, Dawson noticed Haynes’ father in a wheelchair.
“Dawson laughed and mocked John’s father,” Haynes claims, “and repeatedly told John that he was going to put John in a wheelchair like his father.”
Haynes said that on October 20, 2020, he spoke with Coach Dayne Brown privately, telling him that he could no longer tolerate Dawson’s bullying. Brown, the lawsuit claims, chose not to intervene in the situation but instead suggested that Haynes respond with violence.
“Do not tell anyone I told you this, but the way to handle a bully is to beat their ass,” the lawsuit quotes Brown as saying. “You should beat Jack Dawson up so you can get the message across that you are done with him and will not take any more s—.”
On October 24, 2020, Haynes claims he was in the players’ lounge at Davis Fieldhouse, laying on his stomach on the floor, watching a football game on his phone.
“Suddenly,” the lawsuit said, “John felt excruciating pain…”
Dawson, Haynes said, had snuck up behind him and sodomized him with a pool cue.
“John clutched at his backside,” the lawsuit claims. “Dawson and the other players in the lounge laughed at John’s pain.”
John left the room “angry, humiliated, and injured” and quickly received a notification on his phone, he said. It was a Snapchat social media message, Haynes said – a video of Dawson sodomizing Haynes as his teammates laughed.
After the injury, Haynes’ lawsuit claims, he experienced bleeding for five months. He experiences pain related to the injury to this day, he said.
“Stop doing all the gay s—”
During Nov. 2020, other football players became more deeply involved in Haynes’ alleged harassment. Beginning that month, Haynes said, Dawson and another player began grabbing John’s genitals, “usually more than once a day,” while in Troy’s football facility.
Around Nov. 13, Haynes said Dawson and another player attempted to throw Haynes into a pool fully clothed. The two couldn’t get Haynes to the pool and instead dropped him “on the hard ground, causing him injury.”
A few days later, Haynes said his teammates “pressured him to lay on another teammate’s bed while they filmed him.” The players then sent the video to the bed’s owner, who Haynes said retaliated by stealing his prescription medication. An ensuing scuffle ended in Dawson hitting a door so hard it cracked the frame, Haynes said.
Haynes’ lawsuit claims that the Nov. 13 incident led to a meeting with Coaches Blackmon, Smith, and Brown. In the meeting, Haynes said he once again explained the bullying he was facing from his teammates. In response, the lawsuit claims, Coach Smith suggested for a second time that Haynes resort to violence in response to the issue and blamed the bullying on players’ perception that Haynes was gay.
“John, you gotta stop doing all this gay s— like getting into bed with other guys and being so nice,” the lawsuit quotes Coach Smith as saying. “Guys don’t like that gay s—. That’s why Jack and others are bullying you so you just gotta beat Jack’s ass.”
The next day, Haynes said he found his car windshield had been busted.
Near the end of November, the complaint alleges that the Hayneses requested a meeting with all three coaches named as defendants – Blackmon, Smith, and Brown. At the meeting, Haynes’ parents asked Smith why their son’s “pleas for help” had gone unaddressed. Smith repeated his earlier comments about using violence to address the issue and said that Haynes had been “picked on” but not bullied.
The Hayneses arranged to meet with Smith once again after Troy’s Nov. 21 games, but the coach did not show up.
“Later that night,” the lawsuit said, “Coach Smith called John and stated that he did not show up because he was tired and upset by the team’s loss.”
Troy had lost to Middle Tennessee State University, 20-17.
At the end of November, Haynes said he also asked one of the coaches for permission to switch rooms, citing bullying by Dawson. His request was denied, he said.
During early December, events began to come to a head.
On December 4, Haynes said that Dawson sat on top of John while he was sitting on a couch and “forcefully slapped” him. The two began fighting, and John was injured, his lawsuit claims.
“After this event,” the lawsuit said, “John was afraid to sleep in his dorm and stayed the night at another player’s dorm room.”
On Dec. 7, a day after Haynes claims he spoke to additional coaches about Dawson’s bullying, he says that Blackmon called a meeting about the fight between him and Dawson a few days earlier. At the meeting, Smith allegedly provided Haynes with a piece of paper on which to write down “everything that Dawson had done to him.” When he was finished, Haynes said, Blackmon “was angered by John’s list and indicated he was done dealing with this ‘3rd-grade s—.’”
The same day, Haynes’ father requested a meeting with all three coaches, the lawsuit claims, but Smith showed up alone.
“Coach Smith tried to dominate the meeting and deflect any conversation about the bullying,” the lawsuit said.
Smith implied Haynes was homosexual, according to the suit, and suggested that was the reason for what had happened to him. Smith called the alleged pool cue assault “horseplay,” the lawsuit alleges, and informed the Hayneses that John was suspended from Troy University’s football team.
According to the complaint, two days later Haynes’ mother contacted Smith once again to ask what the university planned to do about the pool cue assault. Smith said he reviewed security video of the incident, the suit claims, but said the assault amounted to nothing more than “horseplay.”
That day, Haynes’ parents went outside of Troy’s athletic infrastructure to report what had occurred, reporting the information to a university dean, the lawsuit claims. According to the suit, a day later, John Haynes reported the assault to Troy University Campus Police.
The events John Haynes experienced over the course of his first semester at Troy University convinced him that neither Troy University nor Coaches Blackmon, Brown, or Smith had any intention of acting to protect him from the sexual harassment and bullying he said he’d experienced.
“Based on the deliberate indifferent response by Coach Blackmon, Coach Brown, and Coach Smith to the known sexual harassment John had endured, John felt unsafe remaining at Troy University,” the lawsuit said.
Haynes decided to withdraw from the university on December 14, 2020.
John Haynes’ federal lawsuit claims that he was denied a safe school environment and was deprived of educational opportunities as the result of Troy and the coaches’ actions and lack thereof. Haynes said he never even received notice of his rights under Title IX, a provision of federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The lawsuit asks for an order declaring that the conduct outlined in the lawsuit violated Haynes’ rights, an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages, and related costs.
“Nothing has been proven”
In an e-mailed statement, Mary-Ellen Bates, an attorney for Jack Dawson, said she was not yet prepared to discuss the factual allegations outlined in the lawsuit.
“I am still in the very early stages of my representation of Mr. Dawson, and am not currently in a position to discuss factual allegations in the civil complaint,” Bates wrote. “That being said, it is important to remember that these are simply allegations, and nothing has been proven in either criminal or civil court.”
Bates said Dawson’s counsel is in the process of “speaking with the authorities in Troy” to clear Dawson’s warrants. She did not address whether Dawson plans to turn himself in for arrest and booking.
“I should point out that neither my client nor JSU were aware of the warrants until you contacted them,” she said.
Jacksonville State University has not yet responded to questions about Dawson’s warrants, the allegations outlined in the lawsuit, or whether Dawson remains on the football team.
In a written statement, Matt Clower, Troy University’s Director of Communications, said that the university denies all allegations made by Haynes in the federal lawsuit.
“Troy University denies all allegations contained in this lawsuit and will vigorously defend itself in court,” Clower said. “Troy University is committed to providing students a safe environment with support and resources for all students impacted by harassment. Consistent with University policy, we will not have further comments on this pending litigation.”
None of Haynes’ former coaches named as defendants in the lawsuit responded to request for comment on this story as of publication. The University of Central Florida, which employs Brian Blackmon, has also not responded to request for comment.
The three warrants for Jack Dawson’s arrest relate to three alleged assaults also outlined in the federal lawsuit: the October pool cue assault, the November incident where Dawson and another player dropped Haynes on the ground, and the December incident where Dawson slapped Haynes and the two engaged in a fight.
The warrants, each for misdemeanor assault in the third degree, were issued on October 30, 2021, more than nine months before this article’s publication, but David Hennigan, a magistrate with the City of Troy confirmed that the warrants have not yet been served.
“I don’t know why these haven’t been served yet,” Hennigan said in an email. “I would guess Dawson doesn’t live in Troy anymore.”
That’s true. Dawson is now at Jacksonville State University, a three-hour drive from Troy. But his move there wasn’t low profile. “In Dawson,” the local newspaper wrote of the Aussie in August of last year, “Gamecocks have an accomplished punter, ‘good guy,’ interesting accent.”
Raymond Johnson Jr., a Birmingham-based criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said that it’s unusual that a warrant in such a case would not be served, even when the person being sought by law enforcement has moved out of the area. That’s even more true in a case like this where the defendant’s whereabouts are covered in the media, Johnson said.
“I don’t understand why it would take them so long to serve the warrant,” Johnson explained. “They know where he is. They know how to get him if they wish to do so. It’s just a matter of picking up the phone and asking someone to go out and make the arrest.”
Matthew Wade, the sheriff of Calhoun County, where Jacksonville State is located, confirmed Raymond’s notion to CBS 42 on Friday. Wade, who said that he was unaware of the warrants against Dawson, said his office would arrest Dawson if requested to do so by Troy. As of now, though, he said no warrant for Dawson appears in NCIC, a national warrant database. Troy’s municipal court confirmed, however, that they do not enter misdemeanor warrants into the database.
Either way, Wade said he would attempt to arrest Dawson if asked by Troy police.
“If they want him, we will get him, but there are no warrants showing [in the federal database] at this time,” Wade said. “If somebody called me and said ‘hey, this guy lives at X, and he’s got a warrant, will you go pick him up?’ Then absolutely we would go try it. I don’t care who he is.”
As of CBS 42’s last conversation with Wade, however, that phone call has not yet come. Until it does, the criminal warrants against Jack Stockdale Dawson may go unserved.
UPDATE: Monday afternoon, hours after this article’s initial publication, David Hennigan, a Troy magistrate, confirmed that Dawson has turned himself in on the charges, “was arrested and made bond.” Troy Municipal Court records now reflect a scheduled initial court appearance by Dawson on Oct. 5. You can read more about Dawson’s arrest here.