The lawsuit refuses to go away. A character named Bill Maniaci sued several Georgetown officials for $8 million in federal court last fall, alleging that he was manhandled during a controversial conference in spring 2006 (“PSM Attendee Files $8 Million Suit,” THE HOYA, Sept 22, 2006, A1). Today, the suit is still floating around in Lawyer Land. The “lawsuit” is frivolous, disgusting and dangerous, and so is Maniaci’s obvious attempt to frighten universities into trampling upon speech. Georgetown ought to fight this all the way, never settle and get Maniaci to pay the university’s attorneys’ fees. Kudos to Georgetown – this time – for standing up for free speech. Here’s the background: About a year ago, a group of Georgetown students decided to hold a conference on campus for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement – an unsavory group often accused of being a front for terrorists and anti-Semites. Ironically, however, only haters seemed to care. For weeks before the conference, extremist organizations like the Jewish Defense League (listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) besieged university officials and THE HOYA with increasingly belligerent e-mails demanding that the conference be banned. A few days before the conference, the JDL sent out a threatening press release and planned a protest in Red Square. Despite a spotty track record for supporting students’ speech rights, Georgetown allowed the conference to happen – they did the right thing. A senior university official, Daniel Porterfield, even went on Fox News to defend Georgetown’s position. This lawsuit is an attempt to make the university pay a high price for that noble decision. During the conference, university police booted Maniaci from Gaston Hall after he badgered speakers with questions about suicide bombings. Maniaci charges that he was “violently” pulled out of his seat and dragged out of the building for no reason, although witnesses like Ziad Abu-Rish (GRD ’06) have told THE HOYA a different story. “At no point did I feel that his physical abilities or disabilities were taken advantage of,” Abu-Rish said earlier this year. In the lawsuit, Maniaci paints himself as an innocent and feeble old man who was forced to shut up, brutally beaten and suffered a concussion, abrasions and an ankle sprain. But reality about aniaci’s past paints a different picture. Maniaci is a former chairman of the JDL, basically a terrorist organization which an FBI official called “violent” and “extremist” in 2004 congressional testimony. Maniaci also tried to get THE HOYA to run an offensive, racist ad just before the conference. An excerpt from the ad: “Raging Muslim mobs are now sacking Europe and we’re thinking it can’t happen here. Think again – those Crazed, Blood-Lusting, Berzerk Muslim mobs bent on destroying or killing anything not uslim are only an airplane ride or a nighttime border crossing away.” This was Maniaci’s “corrected copy” after THE HOYA refused his first even crazier ad. “Let me know if there are any glitches. I’ll call and confirm that all is well,” Maniaci cheerfully e-mailed the newspaper’s advertising manager at the time. THE HOYA said no thanks. These days, he is affiliated with B’nai Elim, an extremist group created by former JDL leaders. Doesn’t sound like a nice old man to me. When he came to Georgetown, Maniaci had as much a right to free speech as anyone else. Georgetown had an obligation to respect that. But considering his belligerent, extremist past, it’s hard to believe that Maniaci was civil when he stood up and started spouting off. And it’s tough to imagine that he came to Georgetown without planning to goad administrators into forcing him off campus so he could file a frivolous lawsuit a few months later. His real goal? I wanted to ask him, but Maniaci has played a disappearing trick and his lawyer, Thomas Fay, isn’t talking. “Mr. Fay says it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about this case and he doesn’t want you to talk to Mr. Maniaci,” said Fay’s office manager Ruth Ernst. But it’s pretty obvious that Maniaci didn’t like the PSM conference. Read between the lines: He wants to frighten universities into banning controversial views (anti-Israel views, for instance) for fear of getting sued. Maniaci claims in his lawsuit that his rights to free speech were trampled over. It’s ironic that his lawsuit aims to frighten Georgetown into destroying yours. Moises D. Mendoza is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and former editor in chief of THE HOYA. He can be reached at mendozathehoya.com. DAYS ON THE HILLTOP appears every Tuesday.

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