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Justice Professors Accused of Running Criminal Underworld

Authorities are investigating claims that professors engaged in drug dealing and sexual misconduct.

Allison Quinn9.23.18 8:00 AM ET

A number of professors at one of the country’s foremost universities for training future law enforcement officials have been accused of secretly operating a criminal underworld where drugs flowed freely and female students were treated as sex objects.

The allegations against professors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, which reportedly date back to 2014, have sparked a criminal investigation by the New York State inspector general and the Manhattan District Attorney's office. They run the gamut from using and selling drugs on campus to trying to “pimp out” female students.

The university reportedly first learned of the allegations in May, when two former students filed official Title IX complaints depicting a seedy underbelly at the university run by several longtime professors. Those complaints sparked an internal investigation that reportedly uncovered a large amount of drugs on campus, though the university reportedly waited to take its findings to police until recently.

Four professors have been placed on leave in connection with the investigation, but The New York Times reports that the number of accused professors is actually six.

The two women whose allegations sparked the investigation, Naomi Haber and Claudia Cojocaru, spoke out publicly for the first time this weekend. Haber, who graduated from the university in January, has alleged that the former chair of the anthropology department, Anthony Marcus, raped her after an academic conference in 2015, according to The New York Post.

“He put his hands around my throat, choked me with both hands and forced himself inside me without warning,” she wrote in a document detailing her allegations for an internal investigation by the university, according to the Post. “The only thing I could do was to go numb and detach myself from my body,” she wrote.

Haber also singled out Ric Curtis, a veteran anthropology professor who she says introduced her to a “world of deviance” at the university that was often on full display in a secluded area dubbed “the swamp.” She says Curtis once tried to “entice” an academic colleague being sought out to head an academic department by encouraging her to have sex with him. A similar scenario later played out when Curtis allegedly tried to set her up with a visitor from Harvard, she said.

She also accused Curtis, who is reportedly well-known for his research on drug use, of keeping students close by plying them with drugs.

“Ric supplied weed to his devotees, several times a day, which made it even harder for them to leave once they had become dependent on the drugs and by extension—him,” she wrote in documents seen by the Post.

Lawyers for Curtis, Marcus, and the other professors have all released statements denying their clients’ wrongdoing. A John Jay spokesman, Richard Relkin, told The Daily Beast that university authorities had contacted police “upon receiving complaints alleging misconduct by certain faculty members.”

“Throughout this ongoing investigation, we have been working working under the direction of law enforcement to ensure the appropriate authorities are aware of the situation and may take any action they deem appropriate,” he said.

Cojocaru, a Romanian native who says she was a victim of sex trafficking before her studies at John Jay and now serves as an adjunct professor at the university, has alleged several professors groped her and engaged in sexual misconduct. The lawyer for Barry Spunt, one of the professors she accused, has claimed that her allegations are revenge against John Jay faculty members who did not select her for a PhD program.

But in comments to the Post, Cojocaru laughed off that argument, saying, “That’s something I would expect from someone representing criminals.”

She told The New York Times the internal investigation conducted by John Jay was “incredibly rude and victim-degrading.”  “They made us perform like circus animals, distorted the facts, and distorted what we talked about. They tried to brush the whole thing under the rug, so to speak. They retraumatized us by making us relive all sorts of traumatic experiences.”