Rutgers in the Clear as to Professor's Sex Scandal
(CN) - A family failed to show that a Rutgers University professor sexually exploited a test subject who has the mental capacity of an infant, a federal judge ruled.
The public university, which is New Jersey's largest and most prestigious, says it first learned in 2011 that its philosophy department chair, Anna Stubblefield, had been having a sexual relationship with a severely disabled man identified in court records only as John Roe.
Rutgers claims it informed the police and the Essex County prosecutor after Stubblefield - who no longer works for the school - allegedly said that she and John were "in love" and had "consensual" sexual relations.
John's brother, Richard, and his mother, Jane, claim, however, that the professor admitted in May 2011 "that she had sexually molested" John, a 32-year-old who suffers from "severe mental retardation and cerebral palsy" and has the mental capacity of "an 18-month-old infant."
Richard claims that he took Stubblefield's class while studying for his doctorate in spring 2008, and asked her to use her "facilitative communications" method with John.
Though Stubblefield allegedly went to John's home, the university, and the Cerebral Palsy Center of North Jersey to assist him, Richard and Jane say the sessions were a farce.
While Stubblefield was allegedly supposed to help John present his research at the 2010 Autism National Committee conference, she sexually exploited him at a pool party that summer.
The family sued Rutgers, Stubblefield and 10 anonymous defendants last year but amended their claims after a July dismissal from U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton.
Last week, Wigenton again tossed aside the Roes' constitutional claims against Rutgers under the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
Those allegations "do not amount to the institution or implementation of an unconstitutional policy which condones or encourages rape or sexual exploitation," the unpublished ruling states.
"The fact that Rutgers reimbursed Stubblefield for expenses relating to her facilitative communication work with John Roe does not reflect Rutgers' indifference to any obvious risk," Wigenton added. "Plaintiffs do not allege that Rutgers knew of Stubblefield's actions, condoned her actions, or ignored them altogether. Plaintiff claims that '[i]t is not important that defendant Rutgers knew specifically that plaintiff [John] Roe was being molested;' however, it is indeed an important factor to consider in determining whether Rutgers acted with 'deliberate indifference.'" (Brackets in original).
Because "Stubblefield's actions were not within the scope of her employment," the court rejected the Roes' claims for negligence and invasion of privacy against Rutgers.
The plaintiffs' discrimination claim also failed, according to the ruling.
"Absent from plaintiffs' allegations and arguments - as was the case with the original complaint - is that John Roe was denied access to Rutgers," Wigenton wrote. "Moreover, plaintiffs fail to establish how John Roe was discriminated against by Rutgers. Mere conclusory assertions stating that John Roe was discriminated against based on his race and disabilities without support is not sufficient to state a claim."
Wigenton refused to let the family again amend their complaint.