Claims against FAU by Sandy Hook denier headed to federal jury Monday
- Jane Musgrave Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH
A lawsuit accusing Florida Atlantic University of violating the First Amendment rights of a professor who publicly decried the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as a hoax is expected to be go to a federal jury on Monday.
The university rested its case Friday, setting the stage for closing arguments and jury deliberations when the trial of fired professor James Tracy’s lawsuit resumes after the weekend in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. Attorneys representing FAU scuttled its plans to call an expert as its final witness in the trial that began Nov. 30. Tracy’s attorneys rested their case on Thursday.
Tracy — who is seeking reinstatement, back pay and an unspecified amount in damages — claims FAU fired him from his 11-year tenured position as a communications professor because it didn’t like the conspiracy theories he posted on his online blog, dubbed Memory Hole.
In his posts, Tracy challenged the veracity of news and government accounts of the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn. that claimed the lives of 26 schoolchildren and teachers. He also raised questions about other national tragedies, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings.
University administrators claim their decision to fire Tracy had nothing to do with his controversial views, which snared international headlines and spawned ugly reprisals from the community. Tracy was fired because he didn’t fill out a mandatory form for reporting his outside activities, they testified.
After repeatedly ignoring their requests for the complete form, Tracy was fired in January 2016 for insubordination, according to testimony from former Dean Heather Coltman and former Vice Provost Diane Alperin.
Tracy claims he didn’t think he was required to submit the form because he worked on the blog on his own time and wasn’t paid, other than roughly $2,500 he received in donations.