|Re: 1/27/04 - New Haven Register: Quinnipiac to pay $80G to settle Van de Velde suit |
Quinnipiac to pay $80G to settle Van de Velde suit
Michelle Tuccitto , Register Staff 01/27/2004
NEW HAVEN — A former Yale University instructor will get $80,000 in exchange for dropping a lawsuit against Quinnipiac University, litigation which claimed the school wrongfully dismissed him from a graduate program because of news reports linking him to the murder of a Yale student.
James Van de Velde, a former political science lecturer at Yale, has consistently denied any involvement in the slaying of Suzanne Jovin, who was stabbed to death in the city’s East Rock neighborhood Dec. 4, 1998.
In January 1999 police named Van de Velde, who had been Jovin’s thesis adviser, as belonging to a pool of suspects. No other suspects were named, and no arrests have been made.
Van de Velde’s lawsuit claimed that Quinnipiac spread "false, defamatory and malicious" statements about him to reporters to explain his dismissal from the school’s broadcast journalism program.
New Haven-based lawyer David Grudberg, who represents Van de Velde, said Monday the two parties worked out the settlement earlier this month, as the case was about to go to trial.
"It is a small, but very important step toward clearing his name and toward vindication," Grudberg said. "We consider this a victory. (Quinnipiac) caused false information to be published about Jim that has been damaging to him, and now they’ve paid the price for it."
Quinnipiac spokesman John Morgan, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the settlement or the allegations in the lawsuit Monday. Lawyer Peter Ponziani of Avon, who represented Quinnipiac, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.
While he worked at Yale, Van de Velde had been enrolled in a graduate program in broadcast journalism at Quinnipiac.
The New Haven Register printed a story Dec. 9, 1998, that said police were focused on and questioning a Yale lecturer as the prime suspect in Jovin’s murder. While the Register story did not name Van de Velde, print and television news media subsequently reported that police had questioned him for several hours in connection with the case.
In a letter dated Dec. 10, 1998, Paul Steinle, a former journalism professor at Quinnipiac, notified Van de Velde that he was being suspended from the graduate program, according to court documents. The letter further barred Van de Velde from attending classes at Quinnipiac without permission and from using its facilities.
In the letter, Steinle claims to have learned that the news department at WVIT Channel 30 had decided to terminate Van de Velde’s internship there. Steinle further claimed that he’d been informed by WTNH that Van de Velde’s internship there had also been terminated by the television station.
"Both allegations in the letter were false," the lawsuit against Quinnipiac states.
Van de Velde’s lawsuit claims he was in good academic standing in the program, and he resigned from the WTNH internship because of his academic commitments at Yale. He later accepted an internship at WVIT, and the lawsuit claims he successfully completed it by Dec. 6, 1998.
Van de Velde claimed in the lawsuit that Quinnipiac leaked the Steinle letter to the media.
"The source was obviously Quinnipiac, because we didn’t release it," Grudberg said.
The lawsuit further alleged that Quinnipiac incorrectly claimed to the New York Times that Van de Velde was dismissed from the program for "academic reasons."
Soon after Van de Velde was named as being in the pool of suspects, Yale relieved him of his teaching duties. He now lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Still pending are other lawsuits filed by Van de Velde against the New Haven police and Yale University officials.
Michelle Tuccitto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 789-5615.
©New Haven Register 2004