A Spokane jury is deliberating in the complex case of a Gonzaga University graduate who sued the school, saying his dreams of becoming a teacher were destroyed by unverified allegations that he raped another student.
After two weeks of testimony, attorneys made their closing arguments Monday.
Former student Ru Paster, 26, is seeking damages from GU, claiming officials at the education school compiled a secret report accusing him of raping his former girlfriend in 1992.
The woman never pressed charges, but Paster said the report ultimately cost him more than $100,000 in wages he might have earned teaching in Washington state.
Paster is also seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars for damage to his reputation, invasion of privacy and breach of contract.
And he’s asking the jury to award punitive damages “so that this does not happen to others,” according to his attorney, Laurel Siddoway.
“Instead of giving Mr. Paster a chance to clear his name they treated this as a hot case and pursued it aggressively,” Siddoway said.
After denying Paster a fair hearing, GU officials engaged in a “witch hunt,” Siddoway argued.
They passed along statements to state education officials that Paster, now a hotel employee in Southern California, was “a cocky, male chauvinist” with a penchant for “kinky, deviant” sex, Siddoway said.
But Gonzaga attorney Jerry Cartwright argued the state requires the university to submit pertinent information about a teaching applicant if there is any concern about his or her moral fitness.
“When someone comes forward, even with second-hand information, that he may have been involved in a date rape, the state wants the school to turn that information over to it,” Cartwright told the jury.
“My clients and the people in the education school are not investigators. They’re educators, doing their jobs,” he said.
The relationship that triggered the legal battle was a two-month affair Paster had in late 1992 with Julie Peyton, a fellow education major. A few days after the relationship ended, Peyton told her dorm adviser that she was experiencing pain and soreness. A campus health clinic doctor examined Peyton, then 19, and later said Peyton told her she had been repeatedly forced to have sex with Paster.
During the trial, Peyton, who refused to leave North Carolina where she is a graduate student, testified via videotape. In her testimony, she denied being raped or sexually assaulted by Paster.
GU officials, in late 1993, decided to compile an investigative report on Paster’s relationship with Peyton, based largely on second-hand allegations.
A key statement was a teacher’s detailed summary of a tearful recitation by Peyton to him, in which she supposedly said she’d been raped by Paster.
By the time he graduated in December 1993, Paster had never been told about the accusations, or that GU had passed on details of the report to state investigators.
When he requested a fit-to-teach statement from GU officials, he was told they had to include a statement outlining the unverified rape allegations.
Paster was told he could still apply for a teaching certificate, but the allegations would be part of his permanent personnel file - even if he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Paster refused to submit an application, instead pressing a lawsuit that has taken three years to bring to trial.
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