ATHENS, OH – A female Ohio University graduate student who won a $350,000 sexual harassment lawsuit against former professor Larry Nighswander in 2005 has sued him again, claiming that he failed to comply with the settlement and destroy any images he had of her from a topless photo session that triggered her original complaint.
The new lawsuit seeks additional monetary damages of $25,000 plus legal expenses and asks the court to issue an injunction ordering Nighswander to destroy any remaining images of student Rebecca Humes or risk facing contempt-of-court charges.
The clerk’s office for the Fairfield County Common Pleas Court said today that Nighswander has not yet filed a reply to the new lawsuit, which was filed by Youngstown attorney Ira Mirkin in June. Mirkin told News Photographer that his records show Nighswander responded to the suit with a document signed by him and dated August 2. The Athens News and the Columbus Dispatch report that Nighswander is now living in Florida and that he has refused to comment on the new claim.
Nighswander, who was formerly the director of Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication, agreed in an out-of-court settlement in January 2005 to share with Ohio University a $350,000 payment to Humes to settle her $3 million suit against them in a U.S. District Court. Nighswander admitted using Humes and other students as models, but he consistently denied her sexual harassment claims or wrongdoing. He agreed to leave his position at Ohio University when the head of the school’s legal affairs department, John Burns, threatened to start the formal proceedings to strip Nighswander of his tenure.
Humes and Mirkin filed the federal sexual harassment suit against Nighswander in 2003 and settled the case out of court in January 2005. Part of the settlement gave Humes free admission to graduate school at Ohio University, where she is still a student. The agreement also called for Nighswander to “permanently and irretrievably delete and/or destroy” any images of Humes that he still had in his possession.
Fairfield County (Ohio) sheriff’s investigators who were executing a search warrant seized a computer from Nighswander’s home office near Pickerington, OH, in July 2005, six months after the former professor’s settlement agreement with Humes. Police were investigating Ohio University’s suspicions that Nighswander may have sent a fraudulent eMail, using someone else’s name as the sender, to a university search committee in an attempt to influence the outcome of the committee’s findings.
Fairfield County prosecutors decided not to pursue any criminal charges against Nighswander as a result of their investigation into the fraudulent eMail, the Dispatch reports, but in the course of the inquiry university lawyers learned that police had discovered nude images of a woman on Nighswander’s computer. Ohio University lawyers reviewed the photographs to see if any of the images were of Humes. When they saw that some of the photographs were indeed Humes, Ohio University’s legal affairs office informed Mirkin.
The 2005 settlement between Humes, Nighswander, and Ohio University was the result of a suit she filed in 2003 claiming that while she was an undergraduate student Nighswander asked her to pose for photographs in 2002, that he asked her to remove her top clothing, and that during the photo shoot he touched her breast without her permission.
At first Humes filed a sexual harassment complaint with the university, claiming that Nighswander touched her breast and made sexually suggestive comments during the photo session. The university investigated her complaint and then dismissed it, clearing Nighswander in April 2003.
After Ohio University dropped her complaint, Mirkin filed the federal suit. That suit was settled out of court in January 2005 in an agreement that specifically called for the destruction of any images of Humes. The new suit against Nighswander is based on the discovery that seminude images of Humes still exist in his possession, in direct violation of the settlement.