Suit by UNC professor jailed in Argentina premature, a judge rules

ablythe@newsobserver.comJanuary 15, 2013 

Paul Frampton

— UNC-Chapel Hill physics professor Paul Frampton was under house arrest in Argentina on Monday, serving a four-year sentence on charges that he tried to smuggle two kilograms of cocaine out of the South American country.

Many miles away, lawyers gathered in an Orange County courtroom to discuss a lawsuit he filed to protest the university’s decision to stop paying him almost 10 months ago.

Judge Robert C. Hobgood dismissed the North Carolina lawsuit Monday, saying Frampton had not exhausted all remedies offered by the university.

The UNC system has a process through which employees can file grievances, and it is a multi-stepped procedure that once exhausted allows for review by a state Superior Court judge.

But Frampton, whose case been the subject of international intrigue, is only partway through the state grievance procedure.

Frampton was arrested Jan. 23 at the international airport in Buenos Aires after drugs were found hidden in the lining of a piece of his checked luggage. He was trying to fly back to North Carolina.

Frampton said he was duped into carrying the bag after flying to South America for what he thought would be a meeting with a internationally known bikini model he thought he had met on the Internet. The professor said that after arriving he never actually saw the woman, and was instead asked by a man who presented himself as an intermediary to transport the suitcase.

In a small Orange County courtroom on Monday, an attorney representing the state said a faculty committee had reviewed his case as part of the grievance process and recommended that he be paid. The chancellor has not followed through with that.

The recommendation must be considered by the UNC-CH Board of Trustees as part of the grievance process. A Board of Trustees grievance panel is scheduled to meet Jan. 23, but officials are mum about what cases are on the agenda.

Frampton has appealed his conviction in Argentina, according to Barry Nakell, the Chapel Hill lawyer representing him in his complaint against the university. As he awaits further legal proceedings, Frampton is allowed to serve his sentence in an Argentine apartment, where he has access to phones and Internet and can Skype.

Nakell said Frampton could teach and work with students from Argentina.

“He’s continuing to work on his physics,” Nakell said.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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