Frampton’s lawsuit dismissed

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 05:14 PM

A judge dismissed a lawsuit Monday that UNC physics professor Paul Frampton filed against the University of North Carolina.

Frampton, 69, who is under house arrest in Argentina, had sued UNC because it stopped paying his salary. He claimed that even while he was incarcerated, he continued to teach his graduate students and continued his research and should continue to be paid.

On Monday morning, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood heard a short motion from Kimberly Potter from the N.C. Attorney General’s office, which is representing UNC, to dismiss the lawsuit. She said Frampton is going through the grievance process through UNC and it is not complete yet, and it would be a waste of resources to go forward with the lawsuit before Frampton had exhausted his rights as an employee.

She also contended Frampton had contacted her directly by email and told her that Barry Nakell was not his lawyer and was not representing him.

Nakell, who was in court representing Frampton, told the judge that there was some confusion over who was representing Frampton but that he was still the attorney of record and continues to represent him.

Hobgood dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. Frampton may file a lawsuit after he goes through all the UNC administrative procedures.

When Nakell tried to say something, Hobgood refused to hear him.

“Not today, sir,” Hobgood said. “Not today.”

Afterward, Nakell said the ruling won’t hurt his client, but he said he was surprised by it because he and Potter had had an agreement to hold off on the lawsuit until after Frampton had exhausted his rights through the administrative procedure. That’s what he wanted to tell the judge when the judge refused to hear him, he said.

A UNC faculty committee met and sided with Frampton, but UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp declined to accept its recommendation, Nakell said. A committee from the UNC Board of Trustees is reviewing the matter and is expected to report its findings at a trustees’ meeting Jan. 23-24.

If he loses at that level, Frampton could ask the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings to hear his case, and then re-file the lawsuit if he loses there, Nakell said.

Frampton was arrested in Argentina after trying to leave the country with a suitcase that had four kilograms of cocaine sewn into the lining.

He claims he was victim of a scam in which he was lured to South America to meet a bikini model he met online, but when he arrived she was not there to meet him. Other people met him and asked him to carry her suitcase to her. He claims he did not know that drugs had been sewn into the lining of the suitcase.

He was arrested in January 2012 and held in a jail there until his trial. In November, Frampton was convicted and sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, but is expected to serve half of that sentence and be released in May 2014. He is serving his sentence under house arrest at a friend’s apartment in Buenos Aires.

Frampton claimed he was still working and writing, still teaching and still working with graduate students even from the jail and deserves to be paid his regular salary.

 “He’s working on physics,” Nakell said after the hearing. “He’s in touch with many people around the world and emailing and Skyping. His main activity is working on theoretical physics.”