A lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct that was filed by a North Carolina fencing coach against Pennsylvania State University and its employees was dismissed earlier this month by a U.S. District Court judge.
Jennifer Oldham, head coach of the Mid-South Fencers’ Club in Durham, N.C., alleged that Wes Glon, head fencing coach, had failed to act on her complaint that one of his assistants, George “Gia” Abashidze, grabbed and sexually harassed her on a plane when she was returning in 2017 from a competition with a group of fencing coaches. Penn State ultimately fired Abashidze but left Glon in place.
In a 71-page opinion, Middle U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann noted that Oldham had no established relationship with Penn State and failed to “timely raise certain allegations” and “include essential facts.”
“The lack of an established relationship with Penn State and absence of certain material allegations necessitate dismissal,” he wrote in the May 13 opinion.
The judge wrote that neither Penn State, nor its employee who handles Title IX complaints, “owed Oldham a legal duty to ‘handle her claims [of sexual assault] properly and in good faith,’ and even if they did, Oldham has not adequately alleged that the university or (that employee) breached this duty.”
Penn State declined comment. Oldham’s lawyer also declined immediate comment.
“The Court correctly determined that the claims by Jennifer Oldham were legally deficient and properly granted our motion to dismiss this suit,” said Jeffrey Lutsky, Glon’s lawyer. He said had the case gone forward, Glon intended to dispute Oldham’s allegations.
The Denver-based U.S. Center for SafeSport, a monitoring agency, initially suspended Glon for three years in the Oldham case, and Penn State placed him on interim suspension. But the SafeSport suspension was overturned in November and Glon instead received a six-month probation. Penn State reinstated him as coach at that time.
In April, a former Penn State fencer alleged in a federal lawsuit that Glon had abused her with gibes about her weight and fencing talent and even dismissed her fear she had suffered a concussion. That case also is in Middle District Court.
In his conclusion, Brann, the judge, mentioned the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal that roiled Penn State for years and toppled several of its leaders.
“Some lessons should only need to be learned once,” he wrote. “That said, the particularities of the present case make it meaningfully different than its tragic, shameful precedent involving Jerry Sandusky.”