HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — A former Penn State football player claims in a lawsuit that Nittany Lions players hazed him and other younger teammates by imitating sexual acts in the shower and invoking Jerry Sandusky’s name.
The player, Isaiah Humphries, filed the lawsuit Monday in Pennsylvania federal court against the university, head coach James Franklin and one former teammate Damion Barber.
The school’s own investigation found the ex-teammate had committed “prohibited behavior,” the complaint said.
University police turned over results of their investigation to the local district attorney, who declined to prosecute, Penn State said in a statement. The university said it conducted extensive interviews but found nothing to substantiate claims against Franklin or to indicate that anyone had been hazed.
The allegations include older players Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jesse Luketa and Barber said to younger ones, “I am going to Sandusky you.”
Sandusky was the team’s retired longtime defensive coordinator when he was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys, including physical attacks on university property. He is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence.
Sandusky’s arrest prompted the firing of Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno, and the university subsequently paid more than $100 million to people who said they had been abused by Sandusky.
The lawsuit claims some of the older players would physically restrain younger players, taunt them and engage in mock sex acts. It further claims that starting in January 2018, several players “collectively orchestrated, participated in, directed and or facilitated a campaign to harass and haze lower classmen members of the Penn State football team,” including the former player who sued.
“The participants would make reference to, ‘I’m going to Sandusky you’ or ‘I’m going to Jerry you’ to humiliate the player being hazed,” Humphries’ lawyer Steven F. Marino said.
Marino said what happened between the Penn State players was far from normal locker room horseplay.
“It’s not kids hitting each other with a couple of towels. It’s not wresting. It was behavior that was humiliating. It was continued. It was pervasive. It was demasculating and it shouldn’t be allowed,” Marino said.
The lawsuit says the four players at times restrained Humphries and other lower classmen and subjected them to simulated sexual assaults, both clothed and naked in the showers.
“He was being bullied. He was being harassed. He was being dominated. He was being hazed and when he complained about it, they ostracized players,” the attorney said.
Penn State’s statement issued Tuesday said its Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct investigated, and that Penn State police turned over results of its own investigation to Centre County District Attorney Bernie F. Cantorna.
“The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued,” the school said. A message was left seeking comment from Cantorna.
The teammate who was sued did not return a message that was sent to his university email account.
The lawsuit claims Humphries and his father both reported harassment and hazing in the football team locker room, but “no substantive action was taken” in response by Franklin or the team.
“They have a duty under their administrative policies to make sure their students are protected. And through their employees, servants and agents, they didn’t do so,” attorney Marino said.
The former Penn State player alleges he was retaliated against for making the reports, including scorn from coaches, “irrational and inappropriate censure” by the team’s academic adviser and denial of medical accommodations to treat anxiety and narcolepsy. He believes he was also shunned by other players and said he received threats.
Attorney Marino says his client gave up his scholarship and transferred to the University of California.
The plaintiff is seeking damages on claims of negligence against Penn State, Franklin and his former teammate, as well as assault and battery, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the former teammate.
Penn State University released a statement, saying:
“…the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations of the plaintiff’s claims independent from Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, Penn State police investigated related allegations and forwarded the results to the Office of the Centre County District Attorney (DA). The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued.”
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Penn State Hazing Lawsuit