University of Utah officials are trying to evict from campus housing a student they say has become an intolerable troublemaker who has been blamed for more than 20 incidents of "inappropriate behavior."
But psychology graduate student Alan Zeltserman, 31, Boston, is fighting the eviction in court. Friday he filed a countersuit seeking $100,000 for alleged violation of his civil rights.Assistant Utah Attorney General Douglas Richards appeared before 5th Circuit Judge Roger Livingston, arguing for a speedy eviction based on claims that tensions in the University's Austin Hall have have escalated to the brink of possible violence.
"We are fearful something could happen," Richards said. "We don't want anybody to get hurt."
But attorney Robert Macri said his client is the victim, not the instigator of harassment and threats.
"Last night his door was smeared with feces," Macri said. "There has been constant harassment."
Zeltserman's countersuit to the University complaint contends he was harassed because he is a Jew and has been falsely labeled a troublemaker.
The suit says a housing staff member "did make anti-Semitic statements in the presence of defendant, including drawing a picture of four Ku Klux Klansmen and asking the question, `What's the last thing a Jew sees when he dies?' "
Macri requested a delay of a scheduled May 31 eviction hearing, arguing Zeltserman's lease is up June 9 and he plans to move off campus.
Livingston denied the request.
The complaint also asks for the case to be transferred to district court for purposes of adjudicating the civil rights suit.
Daniel Adams, the school's director of residential living, declined comment, saying it would be inappropriate pending the court case.
But in a memorandum filed in court, university officials said there are more than 20 documented incidents of "extremely inappropriate behavior" by Zeltserman.