The much-publicized lawsuit that has long been expected by the University will expectedly be filed this week.
The New Mexico-based attorney for former wide receivers coach J.B. Gerald said in a phone interview Tuesday that his client was given the right to sue by the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, after an investigation into the physical altercation between UNM head football coach Mike Locksley and Gerald on Sept. 20.
Dennis Montoya, who represents Gerald, added that the 90-day clock requiring Gerald to file his lawsuit within the outlined parameters has already started and that, while Gerald has until Sept. 11 to file the suit, Montoya is “hopeful” it will be filed as early as Friday and by the latest Monday morning.
Contained in the suit which will name Locksley, UNM and the Board of Regents, Montoya said, will be allegations of race discrimination, along with physical battery and a “couple other associated charges,” Montoya said.
“I think there’s general agreement that, at minimum, there was an assault,” Montoya said.
When reached by phone, UNM spokeswoman Susan McKinsey said that because nothing has been served, the University cannot comment on that which has not been filed. Phone messages were also left for Locksley and Krebs.
In clarifying, Montoya said that the race discriminations allegation stem from UNM’s refusal to take reasonable action against Locksley.
Initially, Athletics Director Paul Krebs was only going to assign Locksley a verbal warning followed up in writing, which was to be placed in his personnel file. But after public outcry, an official Human Resources investigation was launched, and it was determined Locksley violated UNM policies, resulting in a one-game, unpaid suspension.
Still, in some eyes, including Montoya’s, that wasn’t enough.
“The University asked Mr. Gerald to basically shut up, and play along, and not to complain and insist that something be done about Coach Locksley’s violent outbursts that were known to the University,” Montoya said. “It’s what I call African-Americans in Athletics Syndrome. The institute had the attitude toward Mr. Gerald that he ought to be happy that he had a job doing what he loved to do and that he was lucky to be there. We do not feel that expectation would have existed if Mr. Gerald were white.”
Montoya said his client will pursue monetary compensation, though said he could not provide an estimated figure. He would not say whether it will be comparable to the $500,000 Gerald’s Maryland-based lawyer Julian Haffner requested in a letter sent to the University.
Over the course of the incident, the two sides have quarreled about everything from the punishment meted out to the details of the incident, with Gerald alleging he was punched and choked, resulting in a laceration to his upper lip.
Meanwhile, University officials have denied that Gerald was choked or punched and that he was only grabbed by the collar, despite internal notes which contradict the University’s stance.
It wasn’t until an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report exposed that there were notes that backed Gerald’s claims were those notes released to local media outlets, despite requests on the part of several media outlets.
At a November news conference to vet the Locksley issue, UNM President David Schmidly attributed UNM not releasing documents to simple oversight and apologized for the confusion. Reading from a prepared statement, Schmidly admitted the destruction of the original copies of Athletics HR representative Shannon Garbiso’s notes, while going on to say that UNM did not willfully cover up the altercation but rather “bungled” the investigative process.
In mentioning the destruction of evidence, Montoya criticized the way the investigation was handled and said the official probe results were not thorough or partial.
“The Human Resources at the University downplayed it, minimized it, trivialized it, and generally made Mr. Gerald feel that he had no recourse,” Montoya said.
Regrettably, Montoya said all this has come to a head.
Should the case go to trial, Montoya said Athletics staff and personnel, and current and former coaches could be asked to give their accounts of the altercation. Aside from what’s already been reported in the media, Montoya said he feels like Gerald has a strong case.
“There are multiple witnesses to Coach Locksley’s outbursts toward Mr. Gerald, so I don’t think it totally boils down to a he-said-he-said (situation),” Montoya said. “It’s pretty confirmed, and Locksley even admitted that he was over the top. We don’t think we’ll have difficulty proving our case.”
At last word, Gerald had moved back to the Washington, D.C., area and has since landed a job at the Washington Jesuit Academy, where he teaches underprivileged sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.
While Montoya said it’s a rewarding profession, Gerald prefers to be coaching, but that the incident and the respective fallout has adversely affected Gerald’s job prospects elsewhere.
“He has not gone back into coaching since,” Montoya said. “… Coaching was his chosen career, and he was forced out of it by these circumstances.”