Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Princeton student admits fabricating attack

A Princeton student who claimed he was the victim of hate e-mail and a brutal physical attack for his conservative views has admitted he fabricated the whole thing, according to news reports.

Francisco Nava, a 23-year-old junior, told local police officials that scratches on his face were self-inflicted, and that he had sent threatening e-mail messages to himself, as well as to fellow members of Princeton’s socially conservative Anscombe Society, and to the group's adviser, Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at the university, according to an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. The society opposes premarital sex and advocates for a return to traditional family values.

On Dec. 9 Nava wrote a guest column for The Daily Princetonian criticizing a recent health fair for distributing free condoms.

"How is a collegiate casanova to feel if his own school can stuff his pockets with condoms?" Nava wrote. "It is no wonder, then, that University Health Services (UHS) over the years has had to limit a student's daily allowance to 10 condoms per visit! What Princeton's condom campaign amounts to is a tacit sponsorship of hookup sex that is fundamentally unsafe for females and ethically unconscionable for the doctors and health professionals who promote it."

A few days after the column ran, Nava reported he and other members of the Anscombe Society had received hate mail. And on Friday night, he went to the University Health Center with scrapes and scratches saying that he had been assaulted by two men.

On Sunday, Nava confessed to police that the beating and the e-mails were part of a hoax.

In a brief interview, Nava told The Daily Princetonian he thought his actions would draw attention to the pro-chastity cause.

Princeton University officials are investigating the fabricated attack and threatening e-mail messages Nava reportedly wrote, actions that could bring disciplinary actions ranging from a warning to expulsion, according to The New York Times.

The Daily Princetonian left several stories about Nava up on its Web site with notes like this at the top: "Update: Francisco Nava '09 has since admitted that he fabricated the assault described in this article. Please see the updated story."

The case raises issues of how journalists -- students and professionals -- can be deceived and manipulated by sources.

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