Professor Ersula Ore Not Suing ASU Over Arrest

Ersula Ore, the Arizona State University assistant professor whose controversial videotaped arrest last year was perceived widely as police brutality, has missed her deadline to sue the university.

In January, Ore submitted a $2 million notice of claim to her employer that accused officials — including Stewart Ferrin, the arresting officer — of false arrest, civil rights violations, abuse of process, and negligence. 

A dash-cam video of the violent May 20, 2014, arrest of a black professor by a white cop, who claimed she was walking illegally on College Avenue, was seen by hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet and news shows. Weeks before a white officer shot an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, the viral video of Ore's arrest ignited debate in the Valley and across the Internet about how police deal with community members — and especially black people. At the same time, given Ore's demeanor as seen on the video, many people saw the arrest as as example of how not to act when confronted by a police officer. 

ASU first backed its officer, but switched sides in the wake of intensely negative publicity. Longtime ASU Police Chief John Pickens left his post and transferred to another department earlier than planned, and an assistant chief resigned.

Ore pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of resisting arrest in July 2014 and was sentenced to nine months' probation.

The first ASU investigation that had exonerated Ferrin was followed by an extensive examination of the facts in the case by a local private detective, who determined that the arrest had been unlawful. (The investigation also determined that Ore had helped to provoke the arrest.) As the new police chief, Mike Thompson, mulled whether or not to fire Ferrin, the officer resigned in February.

In her notice of claim, Ore said she'd been suffering from psychological problems due to Ferrin's "vicious attack" and the subsequent media coverage. As we wrote in January about her claim:

Ferrin "aggressively contacted" her, she claims, "erroneously" lectured her about the need to carry ID, and "abruptly snatched Dr. Ore and attempted to force her hands behind her back." The claim then describes the incident that can be seen on video...

...Ore accuses ASU of making her feel uncertain about her job future there, and says the school even took away a summer class she'd been assigned to teach. Her bosses "strongly implied" the removal of the class was in retaliation for the arrest, the claim states.

Fortunately, just about that time, Provost Rob Page sent an email to all ASU faculty members stating that ASU was on Ore's side. Page wrote in July that he was "shocked" and "disappointed" by what he saw in the dash-cam video, and that Ore was a "valued" employee, and "outstanding teacher and mentor."

"The university remains supportive of her," Page wrote.

Ore's claim says ASU offered to give the class back to Ore, and then paid her for it. But "additional stress" was created because she thought she might not get the money.

Ore's lawyer, Daniel Ortega, said at the time that his client would file a civil lawsuit if the claim was denied. But ASU didn't respond to the claim within 60 days, constituting a denial under Arizona law, and Ore never followed up. State law says that a civil lawsuit against a governmental entity like ASU and the state Board of Regents must be initiated no more than one year after the event that spurred the allegations.

While Ore may have been able to argue that civil-rights violations continued against her even after the May 20, 2014, arrest, as of mid-July that door has closed. ASU, via spokesman Gerardo Gonzalez, confirmed for New Times that the deadline for Ore to sue has passed.

Neither Ore nor her attorney, Ortega, returned messages from New Times. An English professor, Ore has not taught a class since the 2014 spring semester, and isn't currently scheduled to teach any classes, online records show.

We also haven't heard from Ferrin lately — we're not sure how he's supporting himself and his family. An online fundraiser for him seems to have maxed out at about $5,700. 

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.