Attorneys for Penn State University and football coach James Franklin have filed a motion in federal court seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former Nittany Lions football player who claimed he was a victim of hazing and harassment, some of it sexually suggestive, by his teammates.
The motion was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Williamsport asking Judge Matthew W. Brann to dismiss the allegations brought in a civil suit by Isaiah Humphries, a defensive back from Sachese, Texas, who spent the 2018 season as a member of the Lions.
Humphries named Franklin, who he alleged did nothing to stop the hazing, and defensive tackle Damion Barber as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 14. He accused Barber of engaging in harmful physical contact against him, placing him in fear of imminent bodily harm.
Humphries also accused three teammates — linebackers Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos — of taking an active role in the hazing and harassment of underclassmen.
The motion by Penn State said Humphries was not subject to hazing as defined by Pennsylvania law. If the conduct was believed to be hazing, it was not perpetrated by either Franklin or the university, and negligence by Franklin could not be established under anti-hazing laws, the motion said.
The defendants said they found fault with the contention that the hazing was performed by upperclassmen. Humphries, Parsons and Luketa all enrolled at Penn State in January 2018, a time when Barber and Gross-Matos were just beginning the second semesters of their freshman year.
In his suit, Humphries said he and other underclassmen were told “we’re going to Sandusky you,” a reference to former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who is in prison on multiple child-abuse convictions. Humphries claimed the players named in the suit would wrestle other players to the ground, “simulate a humping action” or shove their genitals in their faces.
Humphries left the team at the end of the 2018 season and transferred to the University of California.
Penn State said its Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct investigated Humphries’ allegations independent of the athletic department. One player was disciplined, but “no claims of hazing were substantiated against anyone,” it said.
Shortly after the suit was filed, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said his office had been notified in April 2019 of “serious allegations of crimes of a sexual nature” that had taken place in the Lasch Football Building. After reviewing reports of a police investigation, Cantona said no charges would be filed.