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Reaction to Alleged Hoax Being Anticipated

Students who rallied to back a professor now accused of wrongdoing are due back in school.

March 19, 2004|Stuart Silverstein and Joy Buchanan | Times Staff Writers

Leaders of the Claremont Colleges mapped plans Thursday to deal with expected campus reaction to a police report that a professor may have faked a hate crime.

Students, hundreds of whom demonstrated after the supposed hate crime was reported, are due back from spring break Monday. Administrators said they will offer extra counseling and campus discussions.

Federal and local law enforcement authorities said they were weighing possible charges against Kerri Dunn, 39, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, one of the seven schools in the Claremont Colleges consortium.

The law enforcement officials surprised campus leaders Wednesday when they said they suspected that Dunn staged a hoax in which she slashed tires, shattered windows and spray-painted racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on her own car. Authorities said two eyewitnesses identified her as the person who damaged the auto.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 20, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Professor's lawyer -- An article in Friday's California section misspelled the last name of Gary S. Lincenberg, the attorney representing Kerri Dunn, the Claremont Colleges professor suspected of vandalizing her own car, as Lincenburg.

Dunn is teaching under a contract that expires at the end of the semester, and campus officials refused to comment Thursday on whether she would return to the classroom next week.

"We're left in a very ambiguous situation," said Pamela Brooks Gann, president of Claremont McKenna.

"We have a police report on the one hand that says she vandalized her own car. We have a denial by her on the other hand, and the results of either one of those being true is really a very terrible end.

"People always want closure. This may be a decision where it's very difficult to get to closure," she said.

Cheryl Mimura, spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office, said Thursday that the U.S. attorney's office is investigating whether to charge Dunn with providing false statements to a federal officer, a felony.

Claremont Police Lt. Stan Van Horn said his department has handed over its case to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. He said that agency is looking into whether to charge Dunn with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor.

No decision is expected until at least next week.

On Thursday, Dunn's lawyer, Gary S. Lincenburg, continued to criticize police for their public comments.

In a statement, Lincenburg said law enforcement comments were "irresponsible" and "irreparably damaged her reputation and emotional health."

"We have attempted to contact the police to find out why they would make such a public statement, but have received no answer or return phone call. The FBI agent involved in interviewing professor Dunn has confirmed that, as far as he is concerned, she is not the suspect on any crime," a point Mimura disputed.

Dunn, citing the advice of her lawyer, refused to comment.

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