Men Want Retrial on Pennsylvania University Sex Abuse Claims - Higher Education
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Men Want Retrial on Pennsylvania University Sex Abuse Claims

by Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press

Three men who lost their lawsuit against a former state university administrator over allegations he sexually abused them are taking their case to a federal appeals court.

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 ruled in his favor in 2014. He’s never been charged with a crime.

The accusers contend the trial judge made numerous errors that prevented them from getting a fair hearing of their claims, according to documents filed late Wednesday with the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They want the appeals court to grant them a new trial.

Sanders’ attorney brushed off the lawsuit Thursday, saying there was no truth to the claims and a court had already decided that.

“We strongly believe the appeal has absolutely no merit to it,” Harry Coleman said. “These young men had their day in court, and a jury disagreed with them and agreed with my client.”

The accusers’ motion said a U.S. District judge issued a series of rulings that damaged their case.

The judge prevented jurors from seeing the official report of an extensive administrative investigation into the students’ sexual misconduct allegations, which corroborated their claims, the appeal said. The inquiry by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education 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.

“This case is going to continue on until justice is served,” the students’ lawyer, Albert Murray Jr., a former federal prosecutor, said Thursday.

Separately, Murray has asked the State System to release its administrative report on Sanders. The report has never been released to the public. A State System spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

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