Attorneys for fired Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy have rested their case in a U.S. District Court trial where a jury could soon begin deciding whether school officials should give him his job back.
Tracy and a pair of university administrators have been the main witnesses so far. Tracy’s attorneys assert school administrators fired him in January 2016 because of fallout over controversial views he expressed on his blog about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
FAU’s attorneys say the case is not about Tracy’s first amendment right to free speech, but about his repeated refusals to sign paperwork the university required to report work he did outside the school.
On Thursday, jurors heard part of a pretrial statement from Tracy, who has said he didn’t fill out the paperwork because he was confused about whether his blog was the type of activity he needed to disclose to the administrators.
The paperwork by the end of 2015 was a formality, because by then, a January 2013 news article had already highlighted Tracy’s views and made him the subject of headlines that had angry emails and calls pouring into the university.
In Tracy’s recorded interview, he told defense attorneys that he believed part of his legal expenses in the case were paid by proceeds from a book claiming the Sandy Hook mass shooting was a hoax.
Tracy didn’t write the book, but the author featured some of his essays.
Diane Alperin, the school’s former vice provost, and Heather Coltman, the dean of the college of arts and letters and Tracy’s direct supervisor, each spent several hours on the witness stand this week going over emails and documents they exchanged with Tracy and amongst themselves.
Defense attorneys today also presented testimony from other school officials who said that Tracy had previously checked off documents promising to tell supervisors about outside work, a request he refused in the months leading up to his firing.
Testimony will continue this afternoon.
Aside from trying to get his job back, Tracy’s attorneys are asking jurors to force FAU to give him back pay as well as an unspecified amount of money for damages.