Student sues over arson arrest

AMHERST, Mass. -- A University of Massachusetts senior filed lawsuits totaling $13 million against state, federal and school officials over her arrest for one of a string of arson fires that terrorized the campus.

Yvette I. Henry, 20, of Philadelphia, filed the two suits Monday in U.S. District Court in Springfield.


Each suit seeks $6.5 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages 'as the court deems appropriate.'

Ms. Henry, a chemistry major and a resident assistant in an all-woman's dormitory where many of the 40 small fires were set last fall, was arrested Dec. 2. The charges were dropped on Dec. 23 for lack of evidence.

The first suit charges the FBI and other defendants with making the arrest on 'impermissible racial considerations,' citing an FBI profile describing Ms. Henry as a 'Third World woman who was probably severely depressed.'

Ms. Henry, who is black, alleged she was 'induced by trickery and deceit' to a trailer behind the university's police station where she was questioned, without a lawyer present, for 2 hours before being arrested.

She also charged that authorities conducted a search of her dorm room without a proper warrant.


Ms. Henry also sought damages for her eviction from Crampton House dormitory, the scene of 17 of an estimated 40 fires, and denial of student services for which she had paid.

The second suit charged university officials denied her constitutional rights through the suspension process and seeks reinstatement of her academic records.

Ms. Henry charged the suspension denied her grades in courses that could delay her scheduled June graduation.

'The university firmly believes the proper procedures have been followed,' school officials said in a one-line statement following the filing of the suits.

The suits came two days after the first suspicious fire to hit the campus in two months was discovered Saturday morning.

Officials said a poster on the door of a student's room in the John Adams dormitory was burned early Saturday. Damage was set at $50 and no injuries were reported. Campus police said they had no suspects.

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