Men want new trial on university sex-abuse claims

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2014 6:04 PM

Three men who unsuccessfully sued a former state university administrator in northeastern Pennsylvania over allegations that he sexually abused them have demanded a new trial, saying the judge made numerous errors that prevented them from getting a fair hearing of their claims.

The former East Stroudsburg University students filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Isaac Sanders, the school's former vice president of advancement, alleging he used his high-powered job to offer them gifts, scholarships and campus jobs, then victimized them.

Sanders repeatedly denied touching any of the men, and a civil jury issued a verdict in his favor last month. He's never been charged with a crime.

"We will fight them every step of the way," his attorney, Harry Coleman, said Friday of the plaintiffs' appeal effort.

The accusers' motion for a new trial, filed late Thursday, said U.S. District Judge Robert Mariani issued a series of rulings that damaged their case.

Jurors should have been allowed to see the official report of an extensive administrative probe into the students' sexual misconduct allegations, which would have helped corroborate their testimony, the plaintiffs said. Instead, Mariani prevented it. The inquiry resulted in Sanders' October 2008 ouster.

The judge also erred when he dismissed East Stroudsburg and top university officials as defendants; prevented some of the plaintiffs' witnesses from taking the stand; and limited the testimony of an Alabama pastor who alleged that Sanders repeatedly and inappropriately touched him during a class trip to Washington, D.C., in the 1990s, the filing said.

The accusers also took issue with the verdict itself, saying it was "against the weight of the evidence."

"We're going to continue to seek justice for these boys until the very end. We're going to exhaust every single remedy," their lawyer, Albert Murray Jr., a former federal prosecutor, said in an interview Friday.

Coleman called the accusers' appeal "really desperate and without merit," saying Sanders had been vindicated by the jury's verdict.

"This case has had a tremendous toll on him financially, emotionally, personally. He was relieved to the point of tears by the verdict. Now we're waiting to saddle up again," he said.

Six students filed suit against Sanders and East Stroudsburg in 2009, but three of them were tossed from the case after another judge ruled the statute of limitations had run out on their claims. Thursday's motion also appealed that decision.