UMass-Lowell faces lawsuit spawned from affair gone bad

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LOWELL – A student from Cameroon claims in a lawsuit that he was robbed of due process by University of Massachusetts-Lowell administrators and was unfairly expelled over domestic kidnapping charges that his lawyer says were dismissed in district court.

The case offers an extreme example of how romantic relationships on campus can turn sour and create potentially dangerous situations as well as spoiling academic careers.

In a lengthy federal lawsuit brought against the school earlier this month, Fabrice Kamayou, 27, also claims that UMass-Lowell police helped the administration’s student-conduct coordinator “illegally deliver” him to an interrogation session conducted without Kamayou’s attorney present.

Realizing his right to have a lawyer present had been ignored, Kamayou says he tried to leave the interrogation room with notes from the session, only to have two university police officers “pounce” on him and “exert a savage beating.”

“The beating was so excessive that, in addition to sustaining severe injuries, the officers noted in their report that Mr. Kamayou defecated himself,” the lawsuit alleges.

UMass-Lowell officials wouldn’t comment because of the pending litigation, Christine Gillette, a spokeswoman, said Monday. Kamayou’s lawyer, Timothy J. Perry in Boston, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Kamayou’s complicated situation began in Clinton, several miles north of Worcester, during the early morning hours of Jan. 10, 2013, when “a former girlfriend in a spat of jealousy falsely accused Mr. Kamayou of ‘kidnapping’ her after a dispute involving his new girlfriend,” the court filing says, without elaborating.

Clinton police charged Kamayou with two counts of domestic assault and battery, kidnapping, intimidation of a witness and threatening to commit a crime, according to court records published by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette at the time.

“According to police reports, Kamayou accused his girlfriend of cheating on him and put her in the trunk of his car,” the newspaper reported, referring to the ex-girlfriend.  “Police said Kamayou allegedly punched her when she tried to use the emergency latch to get out of the trunk.”

Last July, Kamayou reached a deal with prosecutors. According to the T&G, Kamayou’s 11-month sentence was suspended after he agreed to probation for two years and to “stay away and have no contact with the victim.” He also agreed to a mental health evaluation. 

“Charges of kidnapping, assault and battery and intimidation of a witness were dismissed,” the newspaper reported, referring to a plea agreement in which Kamayou agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of assault and battery. Under the deal, the remaining charge would be dropped if Kamayou satisfied the terms of his probation.

But regardless of the outcome of his probation,  the damage to Kamayou’s future was already done, according to the lawsuit.

While charges were still pending against him in Clinton, Kamayou claims that his accuser – a fellow UMass-Lowell student – told the school of the charges and requested he be barred from campus and expelled. It is unclear whether she asked for expulsion due to concern over her safety. Kamayou was subsequently suspended and issued a no-trespass order, a decision Kamayou claims violated his right to due process.

“This pre-determined decision to back the accuser and find Mr. Kamayou ‘guilty’ without obtaining the facts also set the stage for multiple violations of Mr. Kamayou’s rights that followed,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint also details Kamayou’s Jan. 24, 2013, encounter with Bohdan Zaryckyj, the school’s student conduct coordinator, and campus police. Kamayou claims the meeting with Zaryckyj involved two UMass-Lowell police officers standing guard at the door to Zaryckyj’s office.

“In violation of his constitutional rights, Mr. Kamayou was not advised of the reason for his detention, was not read any rights (such as Miranda Rights), was not offered the opportunity to speak with counsel and was not provided opportunity to contact his counsel,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the meeting with Zaryckyj lasted about 30 minutes and focused on the legal charges against Kamayou. The former student claims that it became clear to him that Zaryckyj “was not being fair and open-minded.” He says Zaryckyj later demanded Kamayou “provide a written statement” outlining the Jan. 10 events in Clinton.

After providing a statement, Kamayou claims he left Zaryckyj’s office and called his sister, who reminded him of his attorney’s instructions not to talk with anyone about the details of the charges against him without his attorney present.

“He needed to leave and to speak with his counsel,” the lawsuit adds. “Mr Zaryckyj refused.”

“The ensuing events are a blur, but Mr. Zaryckyj and the UMass-Lowell officers allege that Mr. Kamayou attempted to leave the office with notes of the interrogation written by Mr. Zaryckyj,” the court papers say.

Kamayou claims Zaryckyj told the officers to physically restrain him and confiscate the written statement, at which point Kamayou refused and alleges he was beaten up. Kamayou also claims Zaryckyj and police tried to “cover up multiple violations” of his civil rights by “promulgating three false criminal charges” including wanton destruction of property of Zaryckyj’s notes, larceny of said notes and resisting arrest.”

The destruction of property and larceny charges were later dismissed in Lowell District Court, according to the lawsuit, but the university police officers pursued the charge of resisting arrest.

“They (police) lost the claim and Mr. Kamayou was fully vindicated by acquittal after trial,” the lawsuit states. “However, the experiences set forth above, thrust Mr. Kamayou’s life into chaos and came at great personal and financial cost.”

The lawsuit alleges that UMass Lowell “pursued further disciplinary actions against Mr. Kamayou with a vindictive zeal,” with Zaryckyj later holding a campus conduct hearing against Kamayou the following month while the legal charges against him were still pending.

Kamayou alleges the hearing was conducted without proper notice, didn’t provide him with the opportunity to be heard and denied him the right to be represented by counsel.

“The hearing was concluded with a predetermined outcome to expel Mr. Kamayou,” the lawsuit alleges.

Kamayou’s lawsuit also includes a detailed description of his background. Born in Cameroon to a father who worked as a diplomat, Kamayou was raised in France. Kamayou arrived in the U.S. on a student visa in 2006 and spent six months learning to speak English, later earning an associate degree from Mount Wachusett Community College in 2008.

He went on to UMass-Lowell and maintained a near-perfect undergraduate grade-point average despite working 40 hours a week to support himself, Kamayou says. He was later admitted to the university’s graduate school to study mathematics and achieved a perfect grade-point average.

Kamayou included in his lawsuit exhibits which he says show that he satisfied graduation requirements.

That lawsuit claims the “only reason Mr. Kamayou had not already been issued a UMass-Lowell graduate degree was that he was gaining teaching experience (at the request of the school) and, therefore, had registered for the spring of 2013 simply to take additional courses that the school was offering to him for free.”

“He expected to graduate from UMass-Lowell with his perfect GPA and continue his higher education at Brown University,” the lawsuit adds. “All of those hopes and dreams of this talented, hard-working individual seem to have been catastrophically dashed by the events of January 2013.”

Kamayou claims that the school refuses to recognize “the graduate degree he had earned” and continues to “purposely interfere with Mr. Kamayou’s efforts to obtain his graduate degree from other institutions” by “falsely informing those schools that his tenure at UMass Lowell ended with a ‘withdrawal for disciplinary action.’” Kamayou says he was effectively expelled without justification.

“These actions have literally destroyed Mr. Kamayou’s life,” the lawsuit concludes.

In addition to the school, Zaryckyj and campus police officers Mark Schaaf and Scott Childs are also named in the lawsuit.

As of Tuesday, the university had not responded to Kamayou’s lawsuit. According to summonses filed Jan. 22, the defendants have 21 days to respond.

A full copy of Kamayou’s lawsuit, including exhibits, can be found here:

Kamayou vs UMass-Lowell