by Andrea Gardner
More than 1,000 pieces of United States mail defaming two University of La Verne students were distributed to student mail boxes yesterday. The sealed envelopes were addressed University students via box number and carried anonymous fliers displaying the pictures of two freshmen.
The flier included a headline that read, “Gay Bashing is Not a Team Sport” and “Silence is Death,” and referred to an alleged altercation between La Verne students that occurred March 29.
Pictures of David Riffle and Eric Britton were taken from the ULV baseball team program and photocopied onto the flier, along with a copy of a poem found as graffiti on the wall in a men’s bathroom of the Student Center.
Joseph Dolan, Riffle’s attorney, said, “I talked to both of these young men [Britton and Riffle] and both of them disavow any knowledge of that graffiti.”
“We believe there was a flier addressed to each student mailbox and actually a few extra addressed to mailboxes that we don’t have,” said University President Stephen Morgan.
When asked of the University’s response to the flier, Dr. Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs, said the matter was “under investigation” and that she was seeking legal advice regarding the flier.
“We are currently working with the La Verne Police Department and gathering as much information as we can for them,” said Dr. Morgan. “I believe they plan to conduct a full investigation to try to trace the source of that flier.
“We will work closely with them [LVPD] to provide any information we can gather. At this point we have no information about who might have sent the flier,” he said.
According to Dr. Morgan, distribution of the flier could not be stopped.
“It came through the United States mail, and as far as I know there was nothing we could do to stop the distribution of it, and it would have been inappropriate for us to do so,” he said.
The mail was traced, via its meter code, to Mailboxes, Etc. on 19th Street in Alta Loma.
However, some letters were routed through the City of Industry post office. The letters were sent on April 29 and May 1.
In response to Britton and Riffle’s association with the baseball team on the flier, coach Owen Wright said, “These are students who play baseball, not baseball players who run around representing the baseball team and beating people up. We’re persecuting these guys on paper without them being prosecuted.”
The Los Angeles District Attorney has filed misdemeanor battery charges against Riffle and Britton in connection with an altercation between the two freshmen and junior Jamie Bigornia at Nick’s Place.
Dolan said, “Both young men said they had no particular animosity or hatred toward gay people. They may not care for that style of life. They don’t indulge in it themselves, they have no particular pugilistic aversion to that kind of life, and they wouldn’t think of gay bashing, which is what this piece of defamatory material calls it.
“And David said they are not gay bashers, and he felt this young man was coming on to him, and he didn’t like it, and when he went over to confront him, it resulted in the lynch pin of his defense, which is a mutual combat,” Dolan said.
Cory Cruz, Scott Mac Kay and Martha I. Fernandez contributed to the story.