Federal Jury Finds Former VSU President Violated Constitutional Rights

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By Greg Gullberg
February 18, 2013

Valdosta, GA - The federal court battle started six years ago over a parking deck.

Former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes was expelled from VSU in 2007 for protesting its construction. In a string of flyers, emails and articles he rallied for a more environmentally friendly alternative. Now a federal court has ruled former VSU President Ronald Zaccari was personally liable.

When Hayden Barnes was protesting the construction project, he referred to it as the Zaccari "Memorial" Parking Deck on Facebook, which President Zaccari says he took that as a threat to his life and he used that to expel Barnes from school.

Today Hayden Barnes is in Law School in Baltimore, Maryland. The federal court ruled that Dr. Zaccari must pay him $50,000. But his attorney filed a motion Monday saying he was acting on behalf of the university and should not be held personally accountable. If the judge rules in his favor, the settlement could be dropped.

We reached out to current president William McKinney. In an email he said, "Public universities exist as communities for the free and open exchange of ideas. Valdosta State University respects the civil liberties of all its community members, even when disagreements arise in the midst of those exchanges."

The Defense Attorney for Dr. Zaccari says it will likely be April before a final decision is made whether he has to pay the settlement. Even then, it is unclear if the university will pay it for him.