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Former professor in noose case seeks $200M in lawsuit

  • Story Highlights
  • Madonna Constantine sues school, says reputation ruined by plagiarism allegations
  • School claims Constantine published academic work without crediting others
  • Noose was found outside Constantine's school office
  • Constantine's lawyer says evidence proving client's innocence is being withheld
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By Edmund DeMarche
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(CNN) -- A professor who gained national attention when a noose was found on her office door and was later fired for alleged plagiarism has filed a defamation lawsuit against her former school.

A former professor is suing Columbia University's Teachers College for defamation.

A former professor is suing Columbia University's Teachers College for defamation.

Madonna Constantine, formerly of the Teachers College of Columbia University, is seeking $200 million in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court.

Constantine contends her scholarly reputation was ruined when the school in February 2008 released the results of what it said was an 18-month investigation into the plagiarism allegations. The school at the time said it found "numerous instances in which she used others' work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years."

She was immediately suspended and later fired in June 2008.

"This was a scheme cooked up between the head of the department and former faculty," said Paul J. Giacomo Jr., the lawyer representing Constantine. "We had evidence of her original writing that dates back to the 1990s, but it was altered or dismissed."

A spokeswoman for the Teachers College said, "This case is totally without merit and (the college) intends to defend against it vigorously."

Giacomo said the "baseless" charges of plagiarism, coming on the heels of the October 2007 noose incident, made some members of the media question that incident.

The plagiarism investigation was under way when the noose was found, and Constantine has charged that the two were connected. During the controversy she sent an e-mail addressed to students that read, "As one of only two tenured black women full professors at Teachers College, it pains me to conclude that I have been specifically and systematically targeted."

"It blew our minds," Ricco Wright, the president of the Student Senate at the Teachers College, said Wednesday. "After the noose situation she was being celebrated, and then allegations of plagiarism surfaced and we didn't know who to believe."

Wright said the student body at the school was virtually kept out of the loop regarding the plagiarism investigation.

Giacomo says evidence proving Constantine's innocence was suppressed by the school. What's more, he said, journal editors who said they were not contacted during the initial investigation claim to have manuscripts proving her case.

"We look forward to fighting this," Giacomo said.

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