Three University of Virginia students involved in an assault on a freshman on campus have been suspended from the school for terms ranging from one semester to two years, sources close to the case said yesterday.
The sanctions, imposed by University President John T. Casteen III, came after a protracted disciplinary process that sparked a protest rally in April by 300 students, who criticized administrators for failing to support the student-run judicial system. A student panel had recommended that all three perpetrators be expelled for their roles in the November 1997 attack.
Kaye Kory, of Falls Church, the mother of the victim, Alexander "Sandy" Kory, said yesterday that she was pleased with the decision and is looking forward to giving the news to her son, who is away on a camping trip.
"I'm glad that the university finally took what I think is a morally positive decision," she said. "I thought the students would appeal and appeal and appeal until everyone had graduated."
The sources said Richard Smith was suspended for two years, Harrison K. Tigrett for one year and Bradley C. Kintz for one semester. All three are juniors at the university.
U-Va. officials declined yesterday to comment on the case. "We work very hard to try to protect the confidentiality of the students involved," said Louise Dudley, director of university relations.
Kory was walking across campus on Nov. 21, 1997, when Smith and several other students who were driving by mistook him for someone else, according to prosecutors who handled the criminal case. A scuffle broke out, and Kory ended up with a broken jaw and other injuries.
Smith pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to two months in jail. Tigrett, Kintz and another student who was with them, Wesley McCluney, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. McCluney graduated in 1998.
The student panel that initially heard the matter in 1998 recommended expulsion, according to attorneys for Kory and Smith. The three defendants, who did not attend the hearing, appealed the verdict, saying they had been told the proceeding was postponed.
An appeals board made up of students, faculty members and administrators ordered a retrial, but the day before the scheduled April 17 hearing, the student heading the disciplinary panel and three student prosecutors handling the case resigned. Kory said the student prosecutors told him they feared they could become involved in a lawsuit.
Smith's lawyer, Francis McQ. Lawrence, has said his client had no intention of filing lawsuits against the students. A university attorney, Richard C. Kast, told the Cavalier Daily, the school's newspaper, that the students may have been concerned because Smith had filed a slander suit against a woman who said he injured her son during a high school wrestling match.
As the case dragged on, some students alleged that the defendants were getting special treatment because they come from wealthy families. Smith is the son of Frederick W. Smith, chairman of the parent company of Federal Express. Tigrett is the son of the late Memphis financier John Tigrett and designer Pat Kerr Tigrett.
Lawrence, the attorney for Richard Smith, said his client intends to appeal the suspension. Kintz could not be reached for comment yesterday. Julie Overy, a spokeswoman for Tigrett's lawyer, Charles Sims, said Tigrett was disappointed by the decision.
"More than it reflects the facts of the case," Overy said, "it reflects the emotional fervor that has overtaken the university community."