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Ex-BYU student settles eviction lawsuit with apartment after gay-attraction dispute

Published March 27, 2015 9:19 am

Courts • Plaintiff emphasizes that suit was about landlord-tenant laws, not discrimination.
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A former Brigham Young University student has settled a lawsuit with a Provo apartment complex over an eviction that he claims followed a dispute with roommates who wanted him out of the house, the school and the LDS Church because they believed he was gay.

Andrew White was evicted from the Village at South Campus in Provo on Jan. 23, 10 days after the disagreement between the former student and his three male roommates. Court papers say the argument escalated from gay slurs into fisticuffs that left White with bruised ribs.

The lawsuit, which named apartment complex owner Peak Joaquin Holdings, LLC, as the sole defendant, was filed March 19. The complex is considered "BYU-approved" housing and holds residents to the moral standards of the university's honor code — conduct that mirrors the religious principles of the school's owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.



The settlement was announced in a statement by White released Thursday evening by his attorney, Daniel Ybarra.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, White had been seeking more than $101,000 in damages, to cover relocation costs, repair and replacement of personal belongings and as compensation for the fear, anxiety and stress he has suffered since the January dispute.

White's statement clarified that the lawsuit was a matter of landlord-tenant law and not a claim that White had been the victim of discrimination by the apartment complex staff or its owners.

"I stand strongly against any form of invidious discrimination, particularly the type of behavior that my roommates exhibited toward me," he said in the statement. "However, my complaint against the Village did not allege discrimination by them. I didn't allege that in my complaint and I won't allege that now."

White stands against the discrimination he experienced at the hands of his roommates, but the complex did not discriminate against him, the statement said, and the lawsuit was over landlord tenant law.

According to the lawsuit, in early January, White confided to one roommate that he "felt same-sex attraction." The roommate shared that information with others who lived in the apartment without White's knowledge.

Days later, an argument over food turned into an altercation that included threats, gay slurs and statements that White should not be permitted to live in the apartment, study at Brigham Young University, be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or work at the Missionary Training Center, court papers say.

White initially refused to leave, but ultimately did so after his roommates allegedly entered his room, dragged him out of bed and began removing his personal belongings from the residence.

He was relocated to an empty apartment, but was later served with eviction papers after he went to his former residence, which triggered another dispute.

A copy of the eviction notice, which was included with court filings, said White had violated the policies in his lease, including residential living standards and BYU's honor code, but provided no specific details.

Ybarra declined to comment on the case in a telephone call with The Tribune on Wednesday and Lance Freeman, the apartment complex manager, did not return messages left at his office. Court records do not list an attorney for Peak Joaquin Holdings

The lawsuit contends White was wrongly ejected and said Freeman should have known his actions — including telling apartment staff that White was a homosexual — carried "an unreasonable risk" of emotional distress because he knew that that information had in the past "directly led to an assault."

White has since relocated and is no longer attending BYU, although Ybarra told The Tribune on Thursday that White intends to go back to the school.

BYU spokeswoman Carrie Jenkins said the university conducted its own investigation of the alleged incident, but she said its findings are private.

Provo police investigated the incident and have referred the case to the city attorney's office for consideration of criminal charges.

jdobner@sltrib.com

 

 

 

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