SCRANTON, Pa. ― A former state university student told jurors on Tuesday he wishes he had never met the high-ranking administrator whom he had looked to as a mentor, but who he claims molested him when he was a college freshman.
The man, now 26, testified at a federal civil-rights trial stemming from a lawsuit he and two other former students filed against Isaac Sanders in 2009. They allege Sanders took advantage of his position as vice president of East Stroudsburg University in the Pocono Mountains to sexually harass and assault them while they were students there.
Sanders, who has never been charged with a crime, denies wrongdoing.
Taking the witness stand a day after becoming too distraught to testify, the 26-year-old man, the first witness at the trial, described what he said happened to him in the spring and summer of 2007.
Sanders grabbed the teenager’s genitals and asked to give him oral sex while they were driving back from a restaurant, the accuser testified. Sanders also paid for a summer class without being asked and tried to give him underwear as a gift, he said.
“I didn’t want this to happen to me,” said the man. “I did not ask to be touched or groomed. I never gave any hints to Sanders that I was into him or into men at all.”
He said the groping left him “in a shock” and he told Sanders to stop it.
When Sanders dropped the accuser off at the home he shared with his girlfriend, he said, “Thanks for letting me invade your space,” the man testified.
Sanders’ attorney questioned the accuser about inconsistencies between his testimony and what he said in a deposition more than two years ago. The man, a student worker in Sanders’ department, also said that Sanders never explicitly threatened to take away the job or any other benefit if he refused the administrator’s advances.
Two other accusers are set to testify later in the trial. The Associated Press does not generally identify possible victims of sexual abuse.
A total of six men filed suit against Sanders, but three were dismissed from the case because the statute of limitations ran out on their claims.
Sanders was fired following an investigation commissioned by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the agency that oversees East Stroudsburg and 13 other state-owned schools.