SHU apologizes for wrongly calling man a rape suspect
Updated 4:55 pm, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
BRIDGEPORT — Sacred Heart University has issued a letter of apology to a local man for wrongly posting his name and photograph on leaflets as the suspect in the off-campus rape of a student.
“On behalf of Sacred Heart University, we extend apologies for a member of my staff misidentifying you in a BOLO leaflet displayed in connection with the assault that took place on a Sacred Heart University student on April 1, 2016,” wrote Paul J. Healy, director of the university’s emergency management and public safety office.
“We realize you had no involvement whatsoever in that incident and regret that your photograph was mistakenly displayed by security at the University. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.”
Douglas’ lawyer, Thomas Ganim, confirmed Wednesday that a settlement in the Superior Court lawsuit had been reached but declined comment on the details, citing a confidentiality agreement with the university.
“The terms of the settlement do not allow us to comment on specifics,” SHU spokeswoman Deborah Noack said. “However, the suit was satisfactorily resolved in a fair and equitable manner for all involved.”
Police and prosecutors have confirmed that Douglas was not a suspect in the sex assault. Alfonso “Fonzie” Reid is going on trial Tuesday in the case before a Superior Court jury.
In his July lawsuit, Douglas claimed on April 1, Healy issued leaflets with the heading, “Sacred Heart University Department of Public Safety Bolo Information, Off Campus Sexual Assault” and a photograph of Douglas and his car.
The leaflets also warn, “Do not allow the suspect on campus.”
Police said the 19-year-old rape victim was drinking with friends at the Golden Star Café on Main Street when the 39-year-old Reid tricked the young woman to separate from her friends. He is accused of taking her back to his home, where he allegedly raped her repeatedly, ordering her to hold a stopwatch to time his assaults on her.
Police said Reid was identified as the assailant from campus surveillance video. They said prior to Reid’s arrest on April 6, they had no other suspects.
“The arrest of Alfonso Reid, which clearly identified him as the person committing the crime of rape, further exposed the defendants’ negligent, reckless and intentional conduct in falsely accusing the plaintiff, Gary Douglas, as the actual rapist by widely publicizing and distributing his photograph,” the lawsuit stated.
On April 26, Douglas demanded university officials retract the leaflets but no retraction occurred, according to the suit.
“In their false accusation, the defendants have held the plaintiff, Gary Douglas, up to public hatred, ridicule, embarrassment and contempt causing him to suffer much damage to his reputation, mental anguish, loss of sleep and appetite and his ability to earn income,” the suit reads.