Penn State, James Franklin File Motion To Dismiss Former Football Player’s Hazing Lawsuit

Penn State and football coach James Franklin filed a motion Monday asking a Pennsylvania court to dismiss a hazing and harassment lawsuit raised by former football player Isaiah Humphries.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, seeks to dismiss three counts presented in Humphries’ lawsuit, which was filed in January. Penn State seeks to dismiss two counts of negligence and one count of negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit accused several players and administrators, including Franklin and defensive lineman Damion Barber, of “collectively orchestrating, participating in, directing, and/or facilitating a campaign to harass and haze lowerclassmen members of the Penn State football team.” Accusations included players performing sexual acts in the locker room and saying things like “I am going to fuck you,” “I am going to Sandusky you,” and “This is Jerry.”

According to Humphries’ lawsuit, all of the reported hazing, which also includes actions such as stealing underclassmen’s clothing, took place in the Lasch Building, on-campus dorms, or “other places in Centre County.”

In its brief, Penn State states Humphries can’t demonstrate he was “subjected to hazing as defined and prohibited by Pennsylvania law” given the “undisputed facts” relating to the alleged hazing’s execution. The university also stated that “there is no dispute that [the hazing] was not perpetrated by the University or Franklin,” neither of which “violated or could have violated” the Pennsylvania Antihazing Law or the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law.

The university states Humphries’ argument “easily unravels” because the players involved in the alleged hazing acts, namely Barber, Yetur Gross-Matos, Micah Parsons, and Jesse Luketa, were not upperclassmen. Additionally, Penn State’s motion referred to freshmen allegedly hazing another freshman as an “implausible theory.”

Regarding the count of negligent infliction of emotional distress, Penn State’s brief says Humphries’ allegations don’t fall “within the narrow circumstances that courts have carved out for such claims.”

In total, Humphries’ suit consists of eight counts, including assault and battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Humphries left Penn State football in November 2018 and transferred to Cal in January 2019.

Following an investigation, evidence found by Penn State’s Office of Sexual Misconduct and Response and Office of Student Conduct did not substantiate claims of hazing. Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna reviewed the findings and decided not to pursue charges.

We’ll update this story with more information as it becomes available.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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