Ex-player sues PSU for hazing allegations
Humphries accuses team of inappropriate conduct in showers
UNIVERSITY PARK — 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, 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 a redshirt freshman on the Bears’ 2019 roster.
Penn State University police turned over results of its investigation to the Centre County district attorney, who declined to prosecute, Penn State said in a statement released Tuesday.
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.”
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.
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.
The lawsuit claims some of the older players would physically restrain younger players, taunt them with simulated sex acts and expose themselves to Humphries.
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, is a former Nittany Lion defensive back (1989-91).
A message seeking comment was left for the Humphries’ lawyers, Steven F. Marino and Joseph Auddino of Philadelphia.
Humphries, who played high school football in Texas, did not return a message that was sent to his email account.
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 and former players took to social media to deny Humphries’ allegations Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.