Origins of Le lawsuit murky

Although the estate of former pharmacology student Annie Le GRD ’13 filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Yale last week, only some members of the family appear to actively support the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed last Tuesday in New Haven Superior Court, alleges that Yale failed to adequately screen Le’s killer, Raymond Clark III, when he was a candidate for employment as a lab technician. University spokesman Tom Conroy said in a statement that the complaint will do little to preserve Le’s memory or secure justice for the slain student. But when Vivian Le, Annie Le’s mother, appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” Friday morning alongside her lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, she said the suit is intended to teach Yale a lesson about student safety.

“I’m standing for my daughter, because I don’t want anybody to be killed like my daughter,” she told “Today Show” host Ann Curry. “She died for nothing; she died in vain, and I want Yale to protect the students. Yale had let [the murder] happen and you have to be responsible for that.”

But that sentiment appears to be far from universal in the Le family. In a Sept. 13, 2010, letter to the News, Pierson College alum Xuan Nguyen ’10 wrote that she had firsthand knowledge that the guardians who raised Le, Tuyet Bui and Robert Nguyen, and Le’s uncle, James Bui, had no interest in filing any lawsuit because “they would just rather let Annie rest in peace.” One of Le’s other uncles, Minh Nguyen , who lives in the San Diego , Calif., area, told the News last week that he is not involved in the suit in any way and would not comment on what he or other family members think of the complaint.

Vivian Le, Robert Nguyen, and James and Tuyet Bui did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Despite the apparent differences within the family, the suit and its proponents are pushing ahead aggressively. During the Friday interview on the “Today Show,” Tacopina said the federal government’s investigation into Yale’s possible violation of Title IX regulations shows that the University failed to provide a safe environment for women.

Tacopina was hired by Vivian Le to conduct an investigation into her daughter’s death last September, according to Brian King, a lawyer for Tacopina Seigel & Turano PC. King discussed the hiring with members of the media last September outside a routine hearing for Clark.

Clark pleaded guilty to murder and sexual assault charges in exchange for a 44-year prison sentence in March. After that hearing, Tacopina told the New Haven Independent that the Le family had not decided whether to sue the University.

On Sept. 2, a New Haven probate court appointed Glorie Romaniello, an attorney from Waterbury’s Moynahan and Minnello, as administrator of Le’s estate. Tacopina is not licensed to practice law in Connecticut, but he is listed as an attorney with Moynahan and Minnello on the firm’s website.

Although it is unusual, it is not unheard of for an out-of-state family to ask for a specific estate administrator, New Haven trial attorney Raymond Kotulski told the News.

Kotulski added that he did not think it was atypical for Tacopina — who is a high-profile defense attorney — to bring a civil suit. Kotulski said that both types of cases require similar trial skills.

“A lot of times you don’t win on the actual law or the facts. You win on if people like you,” Kotulski said.

Three other attorneys who spoke with the News said that they do not believe Le’s estate will win its case unless the plaintiff can prove that Yale knew about Clark’s violent streak before he killed Le.

Although Clark had allegedly assaulted and threatened a high school girlfriend as a juvenile, he had no adult criminal record before he murderered Le.

University spokesman Tom Conroy wrote in a statement last week that “Yale had no information indicating that Raymond Clark was capable of committing this terrible crime.”

But during his “Today Show” appearance, Tacopina said that he may be able prove that Yale should have known Clark was a danger to others.

“They had other students and other lab employees who had made complaints about Ray Clark,” Tacopina said. “One of the problems is Ray Clark’s supervisor … was his brother-in-law, and his brother-in-law obviously was someone who was perhaps receiving complaints and didn’t act on them. Yale is responsible for that. They had prior notice about him.”

In addition to Tacopina, Paul Slager of the Stamford personal injury firm Silver Golub & Teitell is also representing the Le estate in its suit against Yale.

Comments

  • kattrby

    Thank you, Mr Rosenfeld.

    You have set out very clearly what has been known and which needed to be said. The dignified, desperately hurt, brave silence of Annie’s guardians for the past two years has been dreadful for them. This heartless tawdry greedy suit has brought them even further pain, yet one more ordeal with no end in sight. And must, too, hurt Jonathan Widawsky in terrible ways.

    I am both relieved and grateful that you have written this article, and profoundly hope that it will help to shift all future discussion to a kinder, more rational level. It is not a matter of defending Yale’s coffers – it is very much a matter of ordinary decency.

  • The Anti-Yale

    We live in a debased age.

    When lawyers can advertise on TV as if hawking toothpaste; when doctors can endorse medical products on television and are paid to do so in their offices; when teachers can be bullied into treating students as if they were data-bases: Our country has lost its professional soul.

    The grotesque opportunism suggested as operating in this lawsuit by Mr. Rosenfeld in this brave article should come as no surprise.

    Like mercantile ghouls, we feast on our living as well as our dead, sucking dollars and data from their veins.

    Paul D. Keane

    M. Div. ’80

    M.A., M.Ed.

  • attila

    We live in a debased age.

    People like Paul Keane run around the web, posting pompous and narcissistic commentary on things about which they nothing, and about institutions with with they have almost no connection (spare us a repeat of the auto-biography; we all have it memorized by now).

    Like a truly sick ghoul, he feasts on the tragic events in the lives of other people to gratify some weird urge to open his barren soul to the world.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Hatred is its own punishment.

    “An unforgiving nature breeds misery in its own heart, not that of its enemy.”

    Creon

    in “Oedipus Rex”

  • The Anti-Yale

    attila:

    I write here and in my blog not for the privileged princes (and princesses) of Old Campus but for my long departed grandmother who lived two blocks from Yale in a ghetto apartment in the 1950′s.

    Why wouldn’t you just ignore me?

    Why would you give me the power of your attention? This seems almost like submitting to the magnetism of a nemesis.

    There is something unsavory about expending such negative energy on a literal NON-entity in the digital world.

    Skip over my posts.

    And go in peace.

    PK

    • Yale12

      Using your grandmother’s memory to justify your egocentric bull$hit posts? Pathetic.

  • kattrby

    Whoa, whoa.

    This is not some idiotic squabble.

    Would anybody sensible like to lead us back to what this article said?

  • The Anti-Yale

    Not her memory, but my memory of the classist inequity in New Haven and at Yale which her lodgings represented.
    poster “Yale 12″ seems a bit too involved. One wonders about such emotion over digits on a page.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The Cowardice of Anonymity oozes from these suppurating posts.

    If an Ivy league academic posting board descends to such depths, imagine the level of intercourse in the lay-world of anonymous posts. Shameful new world.

  • The Anti-Yale

    O cowardly new world, That has such people in it!

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