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Yale Prof Arrested on Child Pornography Charges


Former Yale House Master and current professor Antonio Lasaga surrendered himself at 4 p.m. yesterday to U.S. Marshals in Bridgeport, Conn. after being charged with violation of federal child pornography statutes, the Marshal's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

He appeared with his lawyer and was released on $50,000 bail, with the stipulation that he not contact any children while the case is pending, the Associated Press reported.

Lasaga, a professor of geology and geophysics, has been under investigation by the F.B.I., which searched his Saybrook rooms two weeks ago.

He is being charged with knowingly receiving child pornography and knowingly possessing material containing three or more images of child pornography, Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said.

Both counts are felonies and fall under federal sentencing guidelines.

Federal law provides for a fine or a prison sentence of not more than five years, or both, for each count.

Neither Lasaga nor his lawyer could be reached for comment last night.

University President Richard Levin said that Lasaga is still on leave from his teaching duties and that no decision has been made about whether to convene the University Tribunal, the only Yale body empowered to revoke a professor's tenure.

The University has not revoked tenure in recent memory. The standard for revocation is "moral turpitude, not criminal conviction," said Levin.

"We're not rushing to initiate any process," said Levin. "He's only been charged."

Lasaga resigned his post as Saybrook House Master on Nov. 6 - the day of the FBI search - for "personal reasons" and took an indefinite leave of absence from his teaching duties. The Yale Daily News reported the following Tuesday that he was the subject of an FBI investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed earlier this week that the nature of the investigation was child pornography.

News reports last week said that two Yale students may have tipped the FBI off to potential illegal activity.

While Lasaga has served as a mentor in the New Haven Public School System since 1992, school officials said the FBI had not contacted them about his involvement. There had been no indication of improper conduct on Lasaga's part, school officials said last week.

"In fact, those who worked with him considered him a model mentor," said Alison Chapman, director of volunteer programs for NHPS.

Some Saybrook students said last night that although they were originally shocked by the nature of the investigation, they had come to expect, over the last two weeks, that some official action would be taken against Lasaga.

"It seemed like something fishy was going on [surrounding his resignation]," Saybrook sophomore Elana Solon said. "We hoped that there would be a conclusion, but we didn't know what it would be."

[Yale Daily News, Nov. 23]

Student raped at U of A frat house

An 18-year-old female student reported being raped by a Beta Theta Pi fraternity member during the early morning of Nov. 15, police said.

University police were withholding the student's name and that of her 18-year-old alleged assailant Sunday pending further investigation, said Cmdr. Brian Seastone of the University of Arizona Police Department. No one had been charged in the incident.

According to police reports, the alleged victim went to an off-campus party Nov. 14 with the Beta member, a man she had reportedly known for two weeks, Seastone said. The two returned to her home Nov. 15 at 12:30 a.m., met another couple and then went to a second party.

Seastone said the woman, who is a member of a UA sorority, told police she and the Beta member returned from the party to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, 645 E. University Blvd., and later drank some champagne.

"She told him she was dizzy and wanted to lay down," Seastone said. "She said she lay down with him and that she felt a buzz."

According to reports, the student told officers she awoke in the middle of the night to find the man on top of her.

"When she woke up, she felt she had had sex with him but wasn't sure," Seastone said, adding the alleged victim went to University Medical Center for tests. Results had not been completed Sunday.

Seastone said officers had contacted the alleged assailant and the investigation remains open.

"We've got a lot more follow-up to do," Seastone said. "It's one person's word against another person's word."

Contacted at home Sunday, Beta Theta Pi President Christopher Klecka said most Beta members went out the night of Nov. 14 and that he had not been apprised of any rape allegations.

"Honestly, this is the first I've heard of it," Klecka said, adding that he stayed home to watch movies with his girlfriend and was unable to recall if any members were home early Sunday morning accompanied by a female companion.

Klecka added he did not know if any fraternity member had started a new two-week relationship with anyone.

"I've not heard a single thing," Klecka said.

Seastone said police would continue their investigation and a number of things could occur. The case may be taken to the County Attorney to see if an arrest should be made, or police could refer the case to the Grand Jury, which could issue an arrest warrant for the alleged suspect.

If confirmed, the Nov. 15 incident would be the first reported rape since school began in mid-August, Seastone said.

University police reported five sexual assaults during 1997, and 16 sexual assaults were reported during the five years prior.

[Arizona Daily Wildcat, Nov. 23]

Racism sparks fear at Cornell U.

Nearly 200 students, faculty and staff met with administrators to voice concerns and outrage about a rash of racially motivated harassment incidents and their view that the University's silence is insulting.

Administrators fielded questions and worries in a tense and emotionally charged two-hour meeting.

Beginning at last month's end, a number of students in Ujamaa, Cornell's African-American theme house, said they have received harassing phone calls and e-mail on the basis of their perceived racial background and sexual orientation.

One series of calls on Oct. 26 were directed at three female Ujamaa residents in which the caller stated that "niggers should get off campus" and "niggers with scholarships should get off campus."

At 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 2, a fire on the exterior of Akwekon was extinguished by two students. The fire was at first found to result from spontaneous combustion of mulch. However, two days later, the origin was later characterized as suspicious. No analyses were done at the time and thus there is no evidence in the investigation.

The harassment also includes several instances of minority females verbally assaulted by groups of white males at bus stops or when walking home from campus.

Most recently, on Nov. 15, all of the fliers, dry erase boards and door decorations were torn off the doors in one portion of a hallway in the Latino Living Center. A fire also was put out outside the building, but Patricia Alvarez, residence hall director of LLC, said that "to the best of my knowledge, it was caused by a cigarette butt."

The University has not released any statements regarding these incidents, and its failure to respond has been perceived as a lack of interest of the pain and fear of the students targeted.

"I pray for the protection of my people, but if something happens to one of them it will be on all of you and the president," said one student. "You and the president will all then finally know what it's like to live in your own houses and be afraid."

When questioned why administrators met with students nearly a month after the incidents began, Susan Murphy, vice president of student and academic services, responded that she was only contacted the previous day by Jane Mt Pleasant, director of the American Indian Program.

"I don't feel I should come uninvited into your community," she said, a statement she later apologized for later in the meeting.

A resident advisor responded that the administration should not wait for an invitation because it must ensure the safety of its students.

"I shouldn't have to worry about the safety of the lives of my residents or my own life - it should be your initiative, not mine," she said.

One student said that the University and President Hunter R. Rawlings III should "take the moral highground and take a stand."

Another student noted that "the University's silence on this says implicitly that this is okay."

Other issues, including the effect of University policies, were also discussed.

Ken Glover, advisor for Ujamaa, noted that the report last year on the program houses and this year's Humanities Report are "attacks on the social base and academic base" of minorities by the University.

"I'm not surprised [by these incidents], because if you had a racist mindset, you would receive a signal [from the University] that it's all right to intimidate a black student, a Native American student, a Latino student, an Asian American student," Glover said.

"Look around - we're being attacked by the administration, by a newspaper [The Cornell Review] with cartoons and articles that questions our very identity," he continued.

Many students voiced outrage about a cartoon in the latest issue of The Review which portrayed Akwekon and Native Americans in a negative manner.

"We sat here, year in and year out, dealing with the Review and nothing has been done - it's the same thing," said one student.

Taylor said the Univerisity was looking into "the legality of what we may be able to do in terms of a dissociation of the Cornell name."

Among the measures discussed to protect personal safety were the locking of room doors, not propping open outside doors of dorms, traveling in groups and utilizing the Blue Light escort service.

Other steps being taken are increasing lighting as well as police presence in the Ujamaa, Akwekon and the Latino Living Center. Many in the audience, however, said that although many issues were discussed, they doubted the effectiveness of their statements and proposed solutions.

"I've been to more than one of these, and it's all talk and no action," said Mariesa Bainey '01. "The administration really has to look at their protocol: the Indian community is really aggravated that the fire has still not been investigated."

"They can talk all they want, but I still don't feel safe," said Elizabeth Abunaw '02, adding that "I could still be walking home and end up in the hospital."

"They talk to us, but we're not the source - it's coming from racist white kids in the Cornell community," she concluded.

Murphy noted that Henrik Dullea, vice president of university relations, was preparing a statement to be given at today's Student Assembly meeting, which would "convey our disgust and intolerance for these actions, and signal that to the community."

Other administrators in attendance included: Lenorman Strong, vice president of student and academic services and campus life; Winnie Taylor, associate provost; John Ford, dean of students; and Raymond Dalton, executive director of the office of minority educational affairs.

[Cornell Daily Sun, Nov. 20]