Rhode Island Student Sues University for False Crime Report

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After Johnson and Wales University released a report falsely identifying him as an attacker, student Christopher Havlik has sued the school for libel.

In September 2004, the university sent a crime alert claiming Havlik punched another student, who fell and fractured his skull. Havlik was subsequently expelled and found guilty by a state district court later that year. However, his appeal to the state superior court in May proved successful. After his acquittal, he sued the university.

In their defense, the university cited the 1990 Jeanne Clery Act. The act requires all public and private colleges who receive federal financial aid to release information about campus crimes in a timely manner.

Havlik’s attorney claimed the attack qualified only as an assault, not an aggravated assault, and therefore did not fall under the Clery Act’s jurisdiction. He also pointed out that the attack did not occur on school property.

However, the district court struck down both arguments and ruled in favor of the university.

Daniel Carter, the senior vice president of Security on Campus, believes that a successful appeal would set a dangerous precedent for colleges and universities. If Havlik wins his case, he fears that schools would be less likely to report crimes in the face of potential lawsuits.

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