During an LSU investigation in 2018 regarding football player Drake Davis' abuse of his then-girlfriend, tennis player Jade Lewis, multiple witnesses informed officers they were afraid of coming forward because of potential repercussions from Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard, according to the Advocate.
In several reports regarding Davis' abuse of Lewis, who spoke out publicly for the first time over social media on Wednesday, witnesses mentioned being intimidated by Bernhard because of his personal relationship with Davis and his standing in Louisiana politics, the Advocate reported.
Bernhard was appointed to the Board of Supervisors over the summer by Gov. John Bel Edwards but declined the appointment for reasons not yet available.
Police documents refer to Bernhard as a "legal guardian" and "dad" to Davis, although there is no official documentation of adoption. Davis told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2015 that he moved into the Bernhard household in sixth grade and at that point Bernhard and his wife became his permanent guardians.
Witnesses said they worried about losing their anonymity because of Bernhard's influence and facing consequence for reporting Davis' actions, which included seriously injuring Lewis. At one point, she was punched hard enough to fracture a rib.
One football player said Lewis was warned directly by Bernhard to not come forward, and that she "won't have a case," the report read.
Bernhard denied that he ever threatened Lewis when the Advocate reached out to him.
"I have not seen the police reports and do not know the identity of the witnesses to whom you refer," Bernhard wrote in an email. "Notwithstanding what the police reports indicate these witnesses may have said, I did not discourage Jade Lewis from reporting nor threaten retaliation against anyone."
Police wrote that Davis reportedly told his girlfriend he would "take [her] to court because in Louisiana [she'll] never win and in any other state [she] will."
Davis was arrested in August 2018 due to his abuse of Lewis. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and one count of violation of a protective order. Witnesses have reported that Davis continued to abuse Lewis after he bonded out of jail.
LSU commissioned Husch Blackwell law firm to investigate past handling of abuse and sexual assault cases at the University.