FAU Settles Wrongful Death Suit Involving Police Officer

Florida Atlantic University reached a confidential settlement with the family of an escort who was murdered by school police officer Jimmy Dac Ho.

UPDATE: FAU Chief Press Officer Lisa Metcalf sent the following letter to the Sun Sentinel, which origially covered this case. Here FAU’s response to the coverage:

Upon reading the article, I wanted to bring several troubling inaccuracies to your attention in the hope of having the story retracted or updated accordingly.

As a state institution, Florida Atlantic University is bound by the public records laws of the State of Florida.  As a result and with limited exceptions, documents related to the conduct of University business, including settlement agreements, are public record.  Ms. Jacobsen’s reporting is incorrect and misleading – the settlement agreement and related documents in this case are not confidential and we never received a records request for any of those records.

In an effort to correct the inaccuracies in the story, we have attached several records that should provide a better picture of the litigation and support our initial statement to Ms. Jacobsen, which was grossly misreported.  These documents include a copy of the Complaint in this case, in which the Plaintiff sought monetary damages for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses, and “net accumulations,” which would have been the monetary value of the decedent’s estate had her death not occurred.  Also included is a copy of a letter from Mr. Bernstein, in which he reduces his settlement demand from $110,000 to $60,000.  These documents are in direct contradiction to Mr. Bernstein’s statement, quoted in your publication, that “he and his client were not seeking money when they sued the school, but rather were hoping the suit would make the university think twice about who they hire.”

My only contact with Ms. Jacobsen was when she requested a statement regarding the settlement of this case, to which I responded via email as follows: – “FAU was able to dispose of the meritless claims against the university in this lawsuit for an amount less than it would have cost to proceed to trial.”  In complete disregard of my statement on behalf of the University, the following was published: “University spokeswoman Lisa Metcalf said the university decided to settle the lawsuit because it cost less money than taking the issue to trial. She said the settlement was not an admission of guilt by the university.”

The second sentence Ms. Jacobsen attributed to me was never expressed on behalf of the University, and it is especially conspicuous in its distortion of fact, as this case centered on the issue of liability and not guilt.  This was a civil case being litigated in the Circuit Court’s Civil Division. Guilt or innocence was never at issue, although liability was very much at issue and was unequivocally denied by the University, as evidenced by the public documents filed.  This was a horrific incident that will sadly affect the victim’s mother for the rest of her life; but the University’s position has always been that this tragic event, perpetrated by a criminal, was in no way attributable to the criminal’s former employer.  This position, that the lawsuit against the University was meritless, has been reiterated in public documents filed with the court since the inception of this case. Ultimately, the matter was dismissed for the value of $10,000.

FAU values the Sun Sentinel’s longstanding commitment to the community it serves and the integrity for which it is known.  We would simply like to reinforce that notion by assuring that the facts pertaining to this story are portrayed with the accuracy that they warrant.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

___________

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has reached a confidential settlement with the family of Sheri Carter, an escort who was shot and killed by university police officer Jimmy Dac Ho in 2011.

Ho had a long history of violence and was fired by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and rejected by 11 other police departments before he came to work at FAU. Carter’s mother, Sandi, filed a lawsuit against the university for what she considered to be negligence, reports the University Press. At the time of Ho’s hiring in 2006, psychological and polygraph examinations of department recruits were optional. After his hiring by FAU, the department received multiple complaints about Ho, including assault amd harassment.

Ho was given two life sentences for kidnapping and murder. He shot Carter twice – in the neck and abdomen – and she died four days later at Delray Medical Center.

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