Louisiana Record

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University of New Orleans sued for libel and slander

By Leon Roy, IV | Sep 17, 2015

NEW ORLEANS - A Mississippi man is suing the University of New Orleans for libel and slander after they allegedly coerced him into pleading guilty to a criminal charge.

Walter Stewart Brannon and his wife, Sherri Dragoo Brannon, have sued the University of New Orleans (“UNO”), and the following UNO employees: Dr. Peter Fos, the president of UNO; Dr. Gregg Lassen, the vice president of business affairs; Dr. Richard Hansen, the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs; Tom Harrington; and Susan Graham.

Brannon claims he was formerly employed by the University of New Orleans as a computer engineer. On July 14, 2014, Brannon alleged that he was subject to an “unreasonable, unjustifiable, and demeaning search” of his home by defendant, Susan Graham, based on a warrant that was obtained “unreasonably, improperly, under false pretenses, negligently, and/or fraudulently.”

Brannon suggests the defendant did not conduct a reasonable investigation including discussing the allegations with him to allow him to explain his innocence. The plaintiff contends that, under the defendant’s own administrative policy, he had 60 days to return any property in question before any financial liability would result.

On July 15, Brannon was arrested by Graham at the UNO police department for  filing false public records and theft of $1,500 of more.

During his arrest on July 15, Brannon claims that he suffered physical abuse while being transported via UNO campus police officers in the back of a patrol car where he was subject to extreme and dangerous heat.

Brannon argues that the allegations mentioned herein were reported in print and broadcast media and on the internet, resulting in libel and slander causing great, immediate, and permanent damage to his good name, and also to his personal and professional reputation.

The plaintiff further alleges that he was coerced into a guilty plea because it was in his best interest at the time considering his circumstances. Consequently, Brannon says he cannot find employment despite his “tremendous effort in job search[ing].”

According to the plaintiff, he requested a retraction from each individual defendant, however, they have either refused, not replied, or have simply not issued a retraction.

Brannon argues that, as a result of defendants’ misconduct, he is entitled to damages for libel, slander, and defamation; damages to his reputation socially and professionally; public, social, and professional ostracism resulting in loss of friends, peers, colleagues, customers, and employers; mental and emotional pain and suffering; aggravation, annoyance, and inconvenience; inability to pay his bills; and resulting damage to his credit.

Brannon is represented by Richard H. Braker, IV at Richard Hobbs Barker, IV, APLC in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Case No. 2015-06192.

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