Jordan Johnson Responds to $245,000 Settlement ‘I Want to Put This Entire Situation Behind Me’
Jordan Johnson and his attorney David Paoli react to a $245,000 settlement with the University of Montana, claiming that the University took an abusive approach with Johnson, and even attempted to hide evidence of misconduct.
Below is the full statement from Paoli and Johnson as received by KGVO News:
Statement Regarding Settlement with the University System, University of Montana, Royce Engstrom, Charles Couture and David Aronofsky. 2/16/16
Jordan Johnson has entered into an out of court $245,000 settlement with the Montana University System, the University of Montana, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, former UM Dean of Students Charles Couture and former UM Legal Counsel David Aronofsky to resolve all claims he has against them. The claims arise out of these individuals’ improper and unjust treatment of Johnson when Johnson was falsely accused in February 2012 and Couture initiated a student conduct code process which he and Aronofsky unfairly ran.
The parties engaged in pre-litigation settlement discussions with the Montana University System on behalf of all defendants through Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian and his legal counsel Viv Hammill. These discussions eventually developed into more formal settlement discussions additionally involving Bill Gianoulias from the Montana Tort Claims office as well as a private attorney hired by the University System. Although a lawsuit had been drafted on Johnson’s behalf and was prepared to be filed, Johnson believed it was the best course to attempt to resolve the case before any litigation was filed and the claims formalized in Court.
The claims outlined in the draft lawsuit are the result of former Dean of Students Couture predetermining a false accusation as one of guilt and then proceeding to act as a biased investigator, prosecutor and judge in spite of being required by all rules and regulations to be impartial and provide fairness and equal treatment in the process. Former legal counsel Aronofsky oversaw, participated in and facilitated Couture’s biased and unjust treatment of Jordan Johnson. Engstrom reviewed and approved all of theimproper, partial and unfair conduct by Couture and Aronofsky. The claims that are the basis of the settlement include:
1. Violation of his 14th Amendment Property and Liberty interests;
2. Violation of 42 USC § 1983;
3. Violation of Title IX, 20 USC § 1681;
4. Breach of Contract;
5. Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; and
6. Spoliation of Evidence.
Johnson’s attorney, David Paoli, explained: “These claims all arise out of the biased and unjust campus process Couture perpetrated, Aronofsky managed, and Engstrom approved when Jordan was falsely accused by an acquaintance. The spoliation claim involves the destruction of documents and emails from Couture’s computer.”
“Any student accused of wrongdoing deserves a fair and impartial hearing of the facts of his or her case.” Johnson said. “Officials at the University of Montana – people who were in positions of great power – were unfair and biased. Their misconduct made my family and me suffer unnecessarily, both emotionally and financially.” Johnson continued, “I hope that students will receive fair and impartial treatment in the future.” Paoli added that the litigation process likely would have uncovered additional improper conduct and abuse by these administrators; most notably the records that had been deleted from Couture’s computer. “We had already uncovered plenty of misconduct and abuse and it was time to end this sad story.” Paoli said. “Jordan has stood resolute and strong through all the accusations and abuse. He never missed a class and kept pursuing his degree without interruption.”
“No person, be they a college student or other citizen, should have to endure the bias and abusive unfairness Jordan faced at the hands of Couture and Aronofsky with the ultimate approval of Engstrom. It speaks volumes on several levels that two of the three individuals involved are no longer with the University of Montana.” said Paoli. Early in the process, the United States District Court condemned the University’s actions against Johnson:
Today’s ruling is not a finding that the process employed by the University in this case is immune from legal challenge. Indeed, from a normative perspective, the process applied to Plaintiff Doe and the behavior of University officials in investigating and prosecuting this matter offends the Court’s sense of fundamental fairness and appears to fall short of the minimal moral obligation of any tribunal to respect the rights and dignity of the accused. Paoli said: “Jordan appreciates Montana University System Commissioner Christian’s August 1, 2012 decision finding Couture and Aronofsky’s conduct improper, abusive and unjust and his reversal of Engstrom’s approval of their improper tactics. This settlement confirms that decision and the findings made in Christian’s decision. Among other findings, Christian found that Couture and Aronofsky horribly abused Jordan’s rights by predetermining the outcome on day one and unjustly changing the rules and abusing the process to ensure that predetermined, false outcome was achieved. The final abuse of the process culminated with the approval of it all by Engstrom, which Christian had no choice but to reverse.”
Paoli concluded: “Jordan made the decision to settle his claims prior to filing a lawsuit so he could get on with his life. Had he proceeded with litigation, there is little doubt the System and the University would have had to pay significantly more money in settlement or through verdict. But, that was not Jordan’s intent. He wanted to expose the wrongdoing and stand up to those who abused their power and his rights and help to prevent this from occurring in the future. Through this settlement, and Engstrom’s apology to the Johnson family, Jordan believes his intent in making these claims has been met. We very much look forward to closing this matter.”
“I want to put this entire situation behind me and move forward with my life. I want to thank my family, friends, professors, teammates, coaches and the community members of Missoula who stood behind me and beside me through this entire situation. I will be graduating from the University of Montana with good memories because of them.” Johnson said.