Former football player sues Penn State, claiming coaches ignore hazing
Players allegedly made unwanted sexual contact and threats such as, ”I am going to Sandusky you,” former player Isaiah Humphries claims in the lawsuit.
Penn State football coach James Franklin allegedly forced former player Isaiah Humphries out of the program after he reported violent, sexual hazing by other members of the team, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit names the university, Franklin and ex-teammate Damion Barber as defendants in the case. In the suit, Humphries also claims players Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jesse Luketa facilitated a campaign to harass and haze the underclassmen.
Players made unwanted sexual contact and threats such as, ”I am going to Sandusky you,” Humphries claims in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states the abuse resulted in Humphries giving up his football scholarship at Penn State and transferring to California. Humphries is now seeking unspecified financial damages for the harm it caused to his football career, along with severe physical and emotional distress.
On Tuesday, Penn State said in a statement that the university’s Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response, Office of Student Conduct and Penn State Police all investigated Humphries’ allegations. Police forwarded the case to the Centre County District Attorney’s office, which decided not to pursue criminal charges.
Humphries’ attorney, Steven F. Marino of Philadelphia, also represents a former team doctor who is suing Penn State.
According to the suit, the hazing occurred at several campus locations and was allegedly witnessed by members of the coaching staff, who failed to put a stop to the abuse. Upperclassmen allegedly told new players they were “their (expletive) because this is a prison” and made threatening statements such as, “I am going to (expletive) you.”
Comments about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky seemed to be a focal point of the abuse, with the lawsuit noting comments such as ”I am going to Sandusky you,” and “This is Jerry.”
Sandusky was arrested in 2011 after county prosecutors sought testimony from Mike McQueary, the former assistant football coach who said he saw Sandusky molest a boy in a campus locker room shower in 2001. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is now serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
Humphries claims the abuse was physical. The perpetrators would allegedly steal victims’ clothes and wrestle them to the ground while shoving their genitalia on their face or between their buttocks. And if one tried to fight back or resist the abuse, they were the target of more intimidation and bullying, Humphries’ lawsuit states.
University, police investigation
In April, the university announced it was investigating sexual assault claims reported to have occurred in the Lasch Building, the football team’s main headquarters. The investigation was sparked by a football player, according to the police report, who claimed he was hazed, harassed and assaulted by other players.
“Numerous team members, and others associated with the football program, were interviewed and overwhelmingly they disclaimed, or flat out denied the allegations, with most saying it was just locker-room horseplay, or teammates joking around, and they felt that the original complaint came from a player looking for a quick transfer to another school,” according to a report by WJAC, which reviewed the police report.
Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna also reviewed the police report but chose not to file criminal charges.
Claims that abuse went ignored
Humphries claims that on multiple occasions, the coaching staff observed the harassment and hazing in the locker room but failed to intervene. He says he and his father, Leonard Humphries, also reported the abuse to Franklin.
“Despite the harassment and hazing which was occurring in the football locker room being reported to defendant coach James Franklin and other members of the Pennsylvania State University Football team coaching staff, no substantive action was taken by defendant James Franklin or other members of the coaching staff to prevent it,” the lawsuit states.
Retaliation for reporting
In retaliation for reporting the hazing, Humphries claims his football performance was the subject of severe and overt scrutiny, and alleges that he was forced to participate in athletic drills designed to ensure his failure. The lawsuit also claims that Humphries was denied necessary medical care for anxiety and narcolepsy after reporting the abuse.
The lawsuit claims that Luketa threatened Humphries with physical harm. Luketa allegedly told Humphries if he “ever visited ‘his city’ in Canada that he would make certain that [Humphries] was gunned down upon arrival.”
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