The Virginian_Pilot, Jan. 3, 2003
By TIM MCGLONE, The Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK — A former Regent University law student who accused the school of ordering him to undergo counseling after classmates labeled him a “demon” has settled his lawsuit against the school for an undisclosed sum.
Herbert O. Chadbourne, of Saco, Maine, sued the university, its founder Pat Robertson, and two administrators a year ago, claiming civil rights violations, defamation and slander.
Regent officials declined to comment, but in court papers filed over the past year the university denied that its employees defamed Chadbourne or violated his rights.
Chadbourne sought $1.3 million. Although barred from disclosing the settlement amount, Chadbourne said it wasn’t much higher than Regent’s initial offer of $2,500.
Regent fought the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, successfully having most of Chadbourne’s claims dismissed, including those against Robertson.
With a trial scheduled Jan. 14, both sides agreed on a settlement last month. Chadbourne said his attorney discouraged him from taking the case to trial because of the conservative nature of the federal court.
Chadbourne, a Persian Gulf War veteran who served as an Army Delta reconnaissance scout, was a second-year Regent Law School student in the fall of 1999. He had developed a facial tic that he said may have been the result of exposure to chemical or biological agents during the war.
“It was the sudden onset of this disability that caused at least one, if not several, of the plaintiff’s religiously fervent classmates to inform the plaintiff that he ‘had a demon and had therefore been cursed by God for being sinful,'” Chadbourne said in court papers.
Chadbourne said his problems escalated in the 1999 fall semester when his belongings were stolen from a study area. He began hearing about thefts from other students as well.
He turned in a classmate who he thought was a suspect and reported that the man also had been dispensing medical advice without a license.
On Dec. 10, 1999, three days before finals, Chadbourne was called into the office of Thomas M. Diggs, an associate dean. He said Diggs told him nine students had “expressed concern” about him, but Diggs refused to identify the students.
Diggs told Chadbourne to mind his own business about the thefts, the court papers say. Diggs also suspended Chadbourne and barred him from “stepping on the Regent University campus,” the suit says. Diggs ordered Chadbourne to obtain a satisfactory evaluation from a psychologist before he would be allowed to return to the school.
Court papers say Chadbourne was given an opportunity to appeal his suspension and face his accusers. Chadbourne’s appeal was denied.
Chadbourne said as a result of his suspension from Regent, he has been discredited among law schools nationwide and denied transfer or admittance elsewhere. “My life has been on hold for three years here while I tried to bring them to justice,” he said. “And what have I got for it?”
He said he will keep trying to enter another law school.