Reversal in UConn Fracas

Charges are dropped against controversial speaker, but woman who took his notes is arrested. She says she was trying to prevent racist hate speech.

December 12, 2017
 
University of Connecticut Police Department
Catherine Gregory

Catherine Gregory was arrested Monday by University of Connecticut police officers for her role in a chaotic speaking appearance at the university last week. The talk was by a controversial conservative pundit, Lucian Wintrich, who was trying to speak on the topic "It's OK to Be White."

Many in the audience shouted at Wintrich throughout his talk, which they viewed as a way to goad minority students by suggesting that all racial groups are equally likely to face discrimination. At one point in the event, Gregory has admitted, she grabbed Wintrich's notes. He then followed her back into the audience, where they had an altercation that led to his arrest by UConn police that night.

Wintrich charged that Gregory was the one who broke the law, by taking notes that were not hers. And authorities on Monday appeared to back his point of view, dropping charges against Wintrich on the same day they arrested Gregory.

She has been charged with sixth-degree larceny and disorderly conduct.

Wintrich took to Twitter to declare victory, while vowing to make sure that Gregory is convicted.

Jon Schoenhorn, Gregory's lawyer, said in an interview Monday that she would fight the charges against her. Schoenhorn said that Gregory never intended to steal anything and had no desire to keep the notes.

"It's ironic and hypocritical that the University of Connecticut is playing this as if it is about equal issues, and saying that racist hate speech should be treated the same as those who protest against it," he said. Schoenhorn said that Wintrich "was trying to incite reaction" that could have become violent. Gregory was trying to minimize such a reaction "in a mild and reserved way" by taking the notes, he said.

Adding to the controversy is that Gregory is associate director of career services and advising at Quinebaug Valley Community College. Wintrich and others have said that the college should be concerned about having someone advising students who tried to block a speech from taking place on a college campus.

After Gregory came forward to say she was the woman who took the notes, Carlee Drummer, president of Quinebaug Valley, issued a statement about the incident, without naming Gregory, suggesting that the incident had no relevance to Gregory's college role.

"Quinebaug Valley Community College confirms that one of its employees attended a speech given by Mr. Wintrich at the University of Connecticut," the statement said. "The employee attended on her personal time and QVCC learned about the incident when reported in the media. The college does not condone the behavior and encourages peaceful discourse and compassionate debate. The employee attended the event as a private citizen."

Drummer did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Schoenhorn said that Gregory has been on leave from the college due to the death threats she has been receiving, some of them coming to the college. He said that "nothing at the University of Connecticut had anything to do with her job."

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