James Van de Velde ’82, the only suspect ever named in the 1998 murder of Yale senior Suzanne Jovin ’99, will receive $80,000 in a settlement of his defamation suit against Quinnipiac University, he said Saturday.
Van de Velde, 43, a former dean of Saybrook College and lecturer in political science, sued the school for allegedly leaking false statements about him to the press. Van de Velde had been a student in Quinnipiac’s master’s degree program in broadcast journalism but was dismissed from the program in the days following the murder. Upon his dismissal, Van de Velde said he received a letter giving the university’s reasons for removing him from the program.
“They claimed that I was fired from two television stations, which was totally false,” Van de Velde said.
On Jan. 15, 1999, the New Haven Register cited “sources” in revealing the substance of the letter, leading Van de Velde to allege in the suit that Quinnipiac had leaked the information to the newspaper and defamed him.
“They’re giving me $80,000,” Van de Velde said. “If that’s not an admission of guilt, I don’t know what is.”
On Dec. 4, 1998, Jovin, whom Van de Velde advised on her senior thesis, was found stabbed multiple times in East Rock, about a mile from central Yale campus. On Jan. 11, 1999, Yale administrators announced that police had named Van de Velde as a suspect and that his classes that semester had been cancelled.
No arrests have ever been made in the case, and no suspect other than Van de Velde has ever been named.
Van de Velde’s suit against Quinnipiac was settled Jan. 7, the week before the case was scheduled for trial. Quinnipiac spokesman John Morgan declined to comment on the settlement, saying that the university had a policy of not discussing lawsuits.
In previous statements, Quinnipiac said Van de Velde had been dismissed from the program for academic reasons, a claim he denies.
“I passed my course and did extremely well,” he said.
David Cameron, a Yale political science professor who has been an advocate for Van de Velde during the investigation, said he was happy Van de Velde received some vindication through the settlement.
“The settlement clearly indicates that Quinnipiac was in the wrong,” Cameron said.
The case against Quinnipiac is the first of Van de Velde’s lawsuits to reach a conclusion. In December 2001, Van de Velde filed a lawsuit against now-retired New Haven Police Chief Melvin Wearing and several police officers involved in the investigation. In April 2003, Van de Velde added Yale President Richard Levin, Secretary Linda Lorimer, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, Deputy Dean Joseph Gordon, spokesman Tom Conroy and Yale Police Chief James Perrotti to the lawsuit.
Van de Velde said Yale has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
“We’re confident we’re going to win our motion,” Van de Velde said.
Van de Velde said if the case is not dismissed, his lawyer, David Grudberg ’82, will soon begin deposing witnesses, including the administrators named in the suit.
Grudberg could not be reached for comment last week.
Cameron said Yale’s culpability in ruining Van de Velde’s career was greater than Quinnipiac’s and that the damages awarded in that case should be several times larger.
The lawsuit against Yale administrators is scheduled to go to trial in January 2005, Van de Velde said.
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