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Federal judge dismisses Penn State, football coach James Franklin from hazing lawsuit

BRETT PALLOTTO
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
James Franklin

A federal judge on Friday categorically rejected a former Penn State football player's claim that the university and its coach should be held responsible for turning a blind eye to the alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse carried out by his teammates.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann instead likened Isaiah Humphries' relationship with the team and coach James Franklin to a rocky marriage that soured after 10 months.

"Humphries' latest complaint must be his last complaint. He's had four tries," Brann wrote in his 67-page ruling. "If he could have alleged facts to support his various claims, he would have done so by now. I therefore find that further amendment would be futile and that it would be improper to require Penn State and Franklin to defend against these claims yet again."

Brann took Humphries' attorney Steven Marino to task in his ruling, writing the attention-grabbing lawsuit "lacked in substance." Marino declined comment Monday. He has not yet thoroughly reviewed Brann's ruling, he said.

Penn State did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

"Despite numbering 105 pages, Humphries' fourth complaint does little better than his third," Brann wrote. "Rather than delineating a timeline or clearly outlining his legal theories, his latest complaint is rife with vestigial references to arguments and documents that this court has told him do not matter."

Humphries claimed his former teammates hazed him and others by mocking sex acts and invoking the name of convicted child sexual offender Jerry Sandusky.

The university and its police department investigated. The matter was turned over to Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna, who declined to prosecute.

The redshirt junior safety who transferred to the University of California accused Franklin and his coaching staff of retaliating against him after he made the reports.

That allegedly included Franklin unfairly evaluating his performance, censure by the team's academic adviser and denial of medical accommodations to treat anxiety and depression.

Brann wasn't swayed.

"Humphries 'allegations fail to show a hazing purpose, and on this basis alone his claim against Penn State fails," Brann wrote. "None of Humphries five theories show that Penn State or Franklin owed a duty to protect him."

Humphries' lawsuit against a former teammate is still ongoing.