A Bridgeport man claiming he was falsely accused of a sexual assault has filed a lawsuit against Sacred Heart University and its director of Public Safety for disseminating bogus alert information on college letterhead following the March 30 sexual assault of a student after an evening at the Golden Star Café Lounge that recently reopened after it was shut down by the state for serving underage college drinkers. Two off-duty city police officers had also moonlighted there as bouncers.
Gary Douglas, an NCAA soccer official who has worked games at SHU, filed the complaint last week against SHU in Bridgeport Superior Court asserting the information was falsely released on campus by university security even after it was advised by witnesses that he was not the perpetrator of the crime. A week later police arrested Alfonso Reid, who had posed as an Uber driver, as the actual rape suspect. Reid, according to police, has a history of violent crime convictions.
Douglas is represented by attorney Tom Ganim who asserts in the complaint that Douglas demanded that SHU “cease distribution of his likeness connected to the crimes … Thereafter, Defendants deliberately and recklessly continued to broadcast false information … The arrest of Alfonso Reid exposed the Defendant’s negligent, reckless and intentional conduct in falsely accusing Gary Douglas as the actual rapist suspect by widely publicizing and distributing his photograph.”
Sacred Heart security released a flyer that featured an image of Douglas and a security picture of Reid in his vehicle on the same page. The complaint says that Douglas has little or no resemblance to Afonso Reid.
“In their false accusation, the Defendants have held the Plaintiff Gary Douglas up to public hatred, ridicule, embarrassment and contempt causing him to suffer much damage to his reputation, mental anguish, loss of sleep and appetite.”
Douglas says he demanded a retraction from SHU but has not received one. The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages.
In an email request, OIB has asked SHU Director of Public Safety Paul Healy for a comment.
The Golden Star Café is where two city police officers have been accused of moonlighting as bouncers in violation of department policy.
The bar had been shut down by the state Department of Consumer Protection for two months for serving more than 80 underage Sacred Heart University students in April.
Lora Rae Anderson, a spokesperson for the state agency, told OIB then that a “disturbing number” of underage drinkers were served at the Golden Star Cafe on Main Street. “A serious conversation needs to take place regarding supervision protocol.”
The bar was allowed to reopen recently under a set of conditions imposed by the liquor control section of the Department of Consumer Protection.
Partying Sacred Heart University students have been a toothache for the city, particularly in the North End where many SHU students rent apartments. It places an added burden on public safety. The burgeoning Sacred Heart campus proper is located in Fairfield, but the school’s initial dormitories were built across the line in Bridgeport during the early years of Joe Ganim’s first mayoralty. As the school has blossomed from its infancy as a commuter school launched by the Diocese of Bridgeport to a multi-purpose institution, growing pains have spilled over to Bridgeport. As the institution has grown, so too have complaints from North End residents to police about beered-up kids creating havoc in the neighborhood.