Ex-PSU football player alleges hazing
A former Penn State football player claims in a lawsuit that Nittany Lion players hazed him and other younger teammates by imitating sexual acts in the shower and invoking Jerry Sandusky’s name.
The player, Isaiah Humphries, a safety who left the Nittany Lions after just one season (2018), filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District in Pennsylvania against the university, head coach James Franklin and former teammate Damion Barber.
The school’s own investigation found Barber had committed “prohibited behavior,” the complaint said.
Humphries transferred to University of California at Berkley and was listed as a redshirt freshman on the Bears’ 2019 roster.
Penn State University police turned over results of its investigation to the local district attorney, who declined to prosecute, Penn State said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
The university said it conducted extensive interviews but found nothing to substantiate claims against Franklin or to indicate that anyone had been hazed.
Penn State’s full initial statement Tuesday:
“The university has established processes in place for responding to claims of potential misconduct. In accordance with our processes, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct carried out investigations of the plaintiff’s claims independent from Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, Penn State police investigated related allegations and forwarded the results of that investigation to the Office of the Centre County District Attorney (DA). The DA (Bernie F. Cantorna) reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued.”
The allegations include that older players said to younger ones “I am going to Sandusky you.”
Humphries’ suit names three other players — Micah Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jesse Luketa — as participants in the alleged hazing.
Parsons and Luketa were freshmen with Humphries in 2018. Gross-Matos arrived in 2017 and announced earlier this month he was bypassing further college eligibility in hopes of being selected in the NFL Draft in April.
Sandusky was the team’s retired longtime defensive coordinator when he was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys, including physical attacks on university property. He is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence.
Sandusky’s arrest prompted the firing of Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno, and the university subsequently paid more than $100 million to people who said they had been abused by Sandusky.
The lawsuit claims some of the older players would physically restrain younger players, taunt them with “humping actions” and expose themselves. Humphries alleged genitals were placed on his face.
The suit claims that starting in January 2018, several players “collectively orchestrated, participated in, directed and or facilitated a campaign to harass and haze lower classmen members of the Penn State football team,” including Humphries, whose father, Leonard, was a former Nittany Lion defensive back (1989-91).
Humphries, who played high school football in Texas, did not return a message that was sent to his email account.
Humphries’ lawyer, Steven Marino, said it took courage for his client to come forward.
“He wants to be vindicated — he didn’t leave Penn State because he wanted to,” Marino said late Tuesday. “He left Penn State because he was harassed, bullied, humiliated. He wasn’t protected, like he was entitled to be.”
The lawsuit claims Humphries and his father both reported harassment and hazing in the football team locker room, but “no substantive action was taken” in response by Franklin or the team.
Humphries alleges he was retaliated against for making the reports, including scorn from coaches, “irrational and inappropriate censure” by the team’s academic adviser and denial of medical accommodations to treat anxiety and narcolepsy.
It also alleges Luketa threatened to have Humphries killed if he visited Canada, where Luketa lives.
Humphries believes he was also shunned by other players and said he received threats.
He is seeking damages on claims of negligence against Penn State, Franklin and Barber, as well as assault and battery, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the former teammate.
Barber was suspended for Penn State’s opening game this past season for what Franklin said at the time was a violation of team rules. It’s unclear if that suspension had anything to do with Humphries’ accusations.
“The discipline of individual students is generally a confidential matter consistent with federal law,” Penn State, in a second statement released Tuesday, said concerning a question about Barber’s suspension.
As for allegations involving Franklin, the second Penn State statement said, “Based on extensive interviews, we did not learn of any information that would substantiate the claims.”
The statement also added, “No claims of hazing were substantiated against anyone.”
Some of Penn State’s current players took to Twitter to deny Humphries’ allegations. The strongest rebuke came from former offensive lineman Ryan Bates, who now plays in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Bates tweeted the following:
“This kid absolutely sucks. I was there when he was and nothing but trouble came from this kid. From the jump he made a name for himself for being a trouble maker. I can assure you that everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. THIS DUDE STINKS.”