Dean Discusses Application of Honor Code in Case of UVa Law Student

By: Frankie Jupiter; Chris Stover Email
By: Frankie Jupiter; Chris Stover Email

May 10, 2011

The University of Virginia has issued a response to the case involving a third-year law student who admitted that he lied about being harassed by two University police offers because of the color of his skin.

Jonathan Perkins came forward on Friday, May 6 and told authorities the letter he wrote to the editor of Virginia Law Weekly was not true.

Paul G. Mahoney, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, released the following statement on possible honor charges against Perkins:

"At the end of last week, a student at the Law School admitted that a letter he published in the student newspaper was untrue. My office has received inquiries about the application of the University of Virginia's Honor System to this incident.

"The Honor System is student-run and confidential, and of course includes procedural protections for the accused. There will be no public statement of the existence of an Honor investigation (or any other disciplinary proceeding) unless the subject of the investigation chooses to make one. In the event that an Honor proceeding or other disciplinary action is unresolved at the time of graduation, the subject is typically permitted to participate in the ceremony but does not actually receive a degree pending the outcome of the proceeding.

"The University and the Law School are committed to maintaining a community of trust and take violations of that trust with utmost seriousness. We also take seriously the procedural safeguards afforded every student accused of an offense."

University officials have not said if Perkins is involved in an honor trial. Nonetheless, UVa Law students say they're stunned by a fellow student's false allegations.

"I was a little disappointed this came from a law student. I expected that law students would have a little higher level of integrity," student Jacob Kozaczuk said.

Now that Perkins has recanted his allegations against UVa Police, some students at the law school said they're concerned of the consequences his original story will have on other students on grounds.

"I think the biggest worry I have is it would prevent other people from coming forward who are actually abused by the police," said Shruti Chaganti.

Some say they feel Perkins took advantage of the University community, evoking false empathy.

"Obviously this false article played on that empathy and took advantage of that, and I think it's a real shame," Kozaczuk said.

Perkins said he wanted to raise awareness by making up the story. Whether his plan is effective remains to be seen.

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May 6, 2011

A University of Virginia Law student who filed an official complaint against two University Police officers, alleging that he was harassed on The Corner because of the color of his skin, now admits he made the story up.

The student, Johnathan Perkins, wrote a letter to the Virginia Law Weekly detailing the alleged incident.

He said he left a bar and was walking home to his apartment on Wertland Street on Thursday, March 31 when he noticed a police car approaching him, blue lights flashing. Perkins, who is African-American, said the Caucasian officers got out of the car and asked him for identification. When asked if there was a problem, Perkins said one officer responded, “You fit the description of someone we're looking for.” He claimed the officers would not tell him the description he supposedly fit, and even questioned why his Pennsylvania driver's license didn't reflect his Wertland Street address.

After an investigation, Perkins changed his story. In a statement released by UVa, Perkins said "I wrote the article to bring attention to the topic of police misconduct. The events in the article did not occur."

During the investigation, police reviewed all material available to them, which included dispatch records, personnel rosters, police radio tapes, interviews with the alleged victim as well as with other individuals who might have seen something, and surveillance videos from University cameras and those of privately owned businesses in the area surrounding the alleged incident.

"The student cooperated with the investigation," Gibson said, "but details and facts of his story came into question as the investigation unfolded. Yesterday, he told us that the incident had never occurred."

Gibson said he does not plan to charge Perkins with filling a false report.

"I recognize that police misconduct does occur," he said. "Pressing charges in this case might inhibit another individual who experiences real police misconduct from coming forward with a complaint. I want to send the message just how seriously we take such charges and that we will always investigate them with care and diligence."

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April 22, 2011

A University of Virginia Law student has filed an official complaint against two University Police officers, alleging that he was harassed on The Corner because of the color of his skin.

The student, Johnathan Perkins, wrote a letter to the Virginia Law Weekly detailing the alleged incident.

He says he has left a bar and was walking home to his apartment on Wertland Street on Thursday, March 31 when he noticed a police car approaching him, blue lights flashing. Perkins, who is African-American, says the Caucasian officers got out of the car and asked him for identification. When asked if there was a problem, Perkins says one officer responded, “You fit the description of someone we're looking for.” He claims the officers would not tell him the description he supposedly fit, and even questioned why his Pennsylvania driver's license didn't reflect his Wertland Street address.

“It was clear at that point that the officers were toying with me for their own entertainment,” Perkins wrote.

The Keystone State native believes the situation became more tense when the officers discovered he is a law student. When he asked them if he was free to leave, Perkins says one responded, “We just need to make sure you're not carrying any weapons. It'll only take a second.”

I was doubly surprised,” the Temple University graduate wrote, “the officers had all but expressed that I was not the person they were looking for, if such a person even existed, yet the two were about to subject me to a search. At that point, one of the officers spun me around, pushed me toward their car, and placed my hands on the rear of the vehicle.”

Perkins says all of the belongings were removed from his pockets during the search. When the questioning ended, the law student writes that he asked the officers for their names and badge numbers, to which he says one responded, “You don't need to worry about that.”

“I found that very strange. I know that it's current law that police officers have to identify themselves when they're asked,” Perkins told CBS19.

He says the night ended with the UVa officers following him to his apartment, lights still flashing.

Perkins concluded the letter to his classmates:

“This was not the first time that I have been harassed by police officers and it will not be the last. As I stood there, humiliated, with my hands on the police car, my only thought was: 'There is nothing I can do to right this wrong. I have absolutely no recourse.' I hope that sharing this experience will provide this community with some much needed awareness of the lives that many of their black classmates are forced to lead.”

The Virginia Law Weekly also published an article asking law professors their take on police conduct.


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