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felon can sue university over dismissal

By Daniel Tepfer, CTpost
Published: November 14, 2017

BRIDGEPORT - A New Jersey man, dismissed from the University of Bridgeport prior to graduation but after he was convicted of federal wire fraud charges, can sue the school, a judge has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe ruled James Goetz cannot seek damages for emotional distress he claims was caused by his dismissal but he can sue the university for negligent misrepresentation and violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“Genuine issues of material fact are present, concerning the nature of the promises made to the plaintiff and the reasonableness of his reliance upon those promises,” the judge stated in a 16-page decision.

“Here’s a guy with three kids looking to start a career with a clean slate who paid all this money to the school and was thrown out just days before he was to graduate,” Goetz’s lawyer, A. Paul Spinella said. “We are just hoping to get some justice here.”

The lawyers for the university did not return calls for comment.

In 2010 Goetz was admitted to the College of Chiropractic at the university, according to court records. In April 2013, he was arrested on campus based on an indictment out of federal court in Florida and charged with mail fraud and 15 counts of wire fraud.

Goetz subsequently pleaded guilty under a plea bargain to one count each of wire fraud and mail fraud and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Goetz claims that as early as December 2011 he had discussed his legal problems with university faculty members and was assured criminal charges would not interfere with his ability to graduate following the satisfactory completion of all academic requirements. He states that he paid tuition and fees, satisfied all requirements for graduation and paid $6,000 to take and pass an examination by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

But in November 2014, following a newspaper story about his criminal conviction and association with the school, a disciplinary hearing was held and he was dismissed from the school.

“He was not given due process, all school officials knew was that the case appeared in the newspaper,” Spinella said.