January 27, 2010

Prof Sues Wesleyan After Mistaken Identity

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After Wesleyan University mistakenly identified him as a suspected killer and circulated his photograph to national news media last year, Prof. Stephen L. Morgan, sociology, is suing the university for $15,000.

“As a result of [Wesleyan’s] actions, Dr. Morgan has been forced to expend significant amounts of time and effort explaining that he is not a murderer to his family, friends, colleagues, students, professional associates, and others,” Morgan’s attorneys stated in a complaint filed in December. Wesleyan must reply to the complaint by Feb. 5.

The events mentioned in Morgan’s lawsuit began when police and Wesleyan officials launched an investigation into the murder of a Wesleyan student in the campus bookstore on May 6, 2009. Police said the killer was Stephen P. Morgan. As the search for Stephen P. Morgan began, Wesleyan received the driver’s license photograph of Prof. Morgan from the Connecticut State Police. The police said that they did not give permission for the photograph’s release to the media.

News media were circulating the photograph within house. On CNN, Morgan’s picture was displayed intermittently during a phone interview with Sebastian Giuliano, the mayor of Middletown, Conn.

“If you see someone that looks like him, call the police,” Giuliano said on CNN. “Assume he’s dangerous, assume he’s armed. Don’t confront him yourself.”

Students began posting comments on the site collegeacb.com that night, claiming that Wesleyan was using a picture of the wrong person. By 2:45 p.m. the following day, Wesleyan had taken down the photo from its website.

According to the complaint, Morgan then asked Wesleyan to issue a statement acknowledging the error. He says Wesleyan refused. Additionally, the complaint states that Wesleyan officials were evasive, tried to blame the Middletown Police Department and provided false accounts of what happened.

“Dr. Morgan’s reputation as a peaceful, law abiding and caring individual is essential to his occupation as a professor and as a participant in community activities,” the complaint states. “As a result of the defendant’s statements, the plaintiff has been caused to sustain damages to his reputation.” The complaint also discusses damages to Morgan’s emotional state.

Wesleyan University declined to comment due to the pending legislation. Morgan also declined to comment because he is currently involved in negotiations with the university.

Original Author: Juan Forrer