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PSU, James Franklin seek to dismiss ex-player’s hazing lawsuit, calling it ‘implausible'

MARK WOGENRICH
(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
James Franklin
  • Penn State, James Franklin are seeking to dismiss a hazing lawsuit.
  • The lawsuit has been brought by former PSU player Isaiah Humphries.
  • Franklin, PSU claim the allegations consist of an "implausible theory."
Isaiah Humphries

Penn State University and football coach James Franklin are asking a Pennsylvania court to dismiss a hazing lawsuit filed by former player Isaiah Humphries, saying it consists of an “implausible theory.”

Franklin and Penn State filed their motion to dismiss Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, saying Humphries failed to prove his case. In January, Humphries filed the lawsuit against Franklin, Penn State and current player Damion Barber alleging that he was hazed and harassed while with the team.

In his suit, Humphries alleged that players made sexual references and gestures, wrestled him to the floor and referenced Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach imprisoned for child sexual abuse.

Humphries, a freshman on Penn State’s 2018 team, transferred to the University of California the following year. Current players Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa are listed in the suit, as is former player Yetur Gross-Matos. Humphries’ suit alleges that the hazing incidents were committed by upperclassmen as part of an initiation.

The motion to dismiss argues that Humphries’ suit “easily unravels” in part because the players involved in the alleged hazing incidents were not upperclassmen.

Parsons and Luketa enrolled at Penn State in January 2018 with Humphries. Barber and Gross-Matos were in the second semesters of their freshman years academically. The motion calls freshmen allegedly hazing another freshman as part of an initiation process an “implausible theory.”

“Even with the benefit of an expanded definition of hazing under the Piazza Law, Humphries still fails to assert that he was ‘hazed,’” the motion states. “A person may be guilty of hazing under the Piazza Law when he ‘forces’ a student to engage in prohibited conduct ‘for the purpose of initiating, admitting or affiliating’ or ‘continuing or enhancing’ a student’s status in an organization. As set forth above, Humphries’ four classmates cannot have plausibly engaged in any such conduct because they were lower classmen, not ‘upperclassmen.’”

The motion claims that the suit does not prove that Penn State or Franklin violated the Pennsylvania Antihazing Law in place in 2018 or the subsequent Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law, which Gov. Wolf signed in Oct. 2018. Further, the motion states that the suit “does not allege any facts to establish” that the Piazza Law was in effect when Humphries allegedly was subjected to the hazing.

Humphries’ suit consists of eight counts, including assault and battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit cites claims of alleged hazing in which Humphries and other players were restrained and subjected to mimicked sexual acts. The alleged acts took place in Penn State’s Lasch Football Building, a university dorm and “other places in Centre County."

According to the suit, a player told underclassmen, including Humphries, “I am going to Sandusky you.”

Penn State said that investigations by its Office of Sexual Misconduct and Response and Office of Student Conduct did not substantiate claims of hazing.

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said he reviewed the case and did not file charges.