Web of Lies

A law professor who became a conservative cause célèbre resigns after parts of his story unravel.
December 6, 2005

When several of his colleagues expressed doubts about whether they would eventually want to tenure him, William Bradford, an associate professor of  law at Indiana University in Indianapolis, went public with his complaints. He posted on blogs, he talked on the radio, he talked to this Web site, he hit "The O’Reilly Factor." His message: Liberal faculty members were pushing him out because he is conservative, a war veteran and a Native American who didn’t fit a liberal mold for Native Americans.

But as Bradford’s complaints grew louder, his story unraveled. It has now become clear that Bradford lied about, among other things, his military service. University officials confirmed Monday that Bradford -- who did not respond to e-mail and voice messages and who hasn't commented on the latest events -- has resigned, effective January 1.

Bradford appeared on the national radar this summer, after five faculty members on a review committee, which did authorize his reappointment, said they did not think he deserved tenure at the time. Bradford, whose degrees include one each from Northwestern and Harvard Universities, railed against what he claimed was a liberal conspiracy against him.

Bradford had refused to sign a petition in support of Ward Churchill, a professor from the University of Colorado whose comments on 9/11 infuriated people nationwide, despite the advice of Florence Wagman Roisman, an Indiana law professor who did sign the petition. Bradford labeled Roisman as one of the leaders of the push to oust him, and began slinging discrimination and defamation claims around the blogosphere, most prominently on Indy Law Net, a blog for the Indiana law school.

Bradford drew vigorous support not only from the likes of Bill O’Reilly, but also from students and colleagues who noted his prolific publishing, his general popularity as a teacher, and his status as a war hero -- he claimed to have fought in Desert Storm and Bosnia, and to have won a Silver Star. A petition in support of Bradford was even passed around students at the law school. While Bradford took to the pulpit, Roisman and others he criticized had to stay silent, citing the confidentiality of review committees.

But the more attention Bradford got, the more people started asking questions, and the more peculiarities arose. In September, Lucas Sayre, a second year law student and the head of Indy Law Net, noticed that Bradford’s comments were coming from the same IP address as posts from other user names. Sayre, who had taken a course with Bradford and said he was a great professor, questioned Bradford about it, and Bradford admitted to using fake names to post “cheap shots, schoolyard bickering,” Sayre said.

In October, Bradford promised the blog audience that the person who endowed Roisman’s chair was upset at her behavior and would strip her of the chair, and that Judge David J. Dreyer of Marion Superior Court had issued a temporary restraining order barring professors from speaking ill of or taking any actions against Bradford. Roisman did not lose her chair, and there never was a restraining order.

Naturally, some of the law buffs who frequent Indy Law Net went searching for the restraining order. When a user identified as “me” posted that he or she could not find it, Bradford objected. “Who are you, me? I ask because if you're on the other side or working for them, which is my presumption unless you tell me otherwise and tell me who you are, I'm not going to give you any more guidance,” he responded in a comment.

Court records and sources both indicate that Bradford never filed for any sort of injunction.

One part of Bradford’s offensive involved talking with Ruth Holladay, a columnist for The Indianapolis Star who wrote a column supporting him in June. Holladay wrote about Bradford’s impressive military service. On his faculty profile, Bradford is identified as having served in the Army infantry from 1994 to 2001, and he had claimed to have been a major in the Special Forces.

Some of Bradford’s deceptions seem obvious. For example, Desert Storm ended in 1991, and Bradford got a Ph.D., a J.D., and an L.L.M. during his supposed years of combat. Other deceptions were less easily penetrated. That’s why it took Ret. Army Lieut. Col. Keith R. Donnelly contacting Holladay with his suspicion that Bradford did not win a Silver Star to bring clarity to that issue. Both Donnelly and Holladay independently requested Bradford’s military records. In her column Sunday, Holladay reported that Bradford had seen no active duty, had won no awards, was discharged as a second lieutenant, and was not in the infantry. Bradford had been in the Army Reserve from September 30, 1995, to October 23, 2001, but saw no active duty.

Roisman said she was told that any complaint Bradford had filed against her and other professors with the university would be withdrawn. But Roisman said that neither she nor another professor plan to withdraw their complaints that Bradford had trumped up discrimination accusations against them. “As far as I’m concerned,” Roisman said, “why should they go away?”

Sayre said he has contacted Bradford recently, but that Bradford would only confirm his resignation. Once deafening on Indy Law Net, Bradford would tell Sayre nothing more.


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