SCRANTON, Pa. ― A Baptist minister in Alabama said Thursday that he was inappropriately touched by a man now accused of sexually assaulting students at a state university in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The minister testified at a federal civil-rights trial stemming from a lawsuit that three former East Stroudsburg University students filed against Isaac Sanders, the school’s former vice president of advancement. But the jury was unable to hear most of the clergyman’s story because a judge ruled it would unfairly prejudice the defendant.
The plaintiffs allege Sanders subjected them to sexual harassment and assault while he worked as the university’s chief fundraiser. Sanders was fired six years ago following an investigation by the agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s state university system. He has consistently denied wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Albert Murray Jr., sought the minister’s testimony to illustrate that Sanders has a history of predatory behavior.
The minister said Sanders touched him inappropriately in 1999, when he was a student at Stillman College in Alabama and Sanders worked in the development office there.
On a school-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., he said Sanders touched his buttocks as he exited a limousine, rubbed his side while they were at a cigar bar, followed him into a public bathroom and watched him urinate, and tried sliding his hand all the way up the student’s leg under the table at a dinner reception. He said he slapped Sanders’ hand away and later told him: “I don’t get down like that. This is not what I’m interested in.”
He said he reported Sanders’ conduct to the university president after flying back to Alabama, and Sanders was barred from contacting him again ― but violated the ban by seeking to have his picture taken with the student.
The clergyman recounted his story out of the jury’s presence. U.S. District Judge Robert Mariani ruled that most of the conduct described by the minister was ambiguous, and only permitted him to tell jurors that Sanders had touched his buttocks.
Sanders’ attorney began presenting his defense later Thursday, and Sanders was expected to take the stand.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually abused.