Ex-player sues school over hazing allegations
HARRISBURG — 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.
Isaiah Humphries filed the lawsuit Monday in Pennsylvania federal court against the university, head coach James Franklin and one former teammate.
University police conducted an investigation and turned over their results 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 that older players 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.
Humphries’ lawyer, Steven Marino, said it took courage for his client to come forward.
“And he wants to be vindicated — he didn’t leave Penn State because he wanted to,” Marino said late Tuesday. “He left Penn State because he was harassed, bullied, humiliated. He wasn’t protected, like he was entitled to be.”
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 Humphries.
The AP does not generally name people who say they are victims of sexual abuse or similar crimes unless they consent to being identified, but Marino gave consent on his client’s behalf.
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.
Marino said he has not spoken with the prosecutor and does not know what investigation was conducted, but said Penn State’s own internal investigation made a finding against the player listed in the lawsuit.
The former teammate 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.
Humphries, 20, 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.
He 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 allegations against the former teammate.
Humphries, a native of Texas, has since transferred to the University of California, Berkeley.