OMAHA - The Nebraska Supreme Court declined on Friday to reopen a dispute about whether e-mails that two Spanish professors at Creighton University exchanged in Spanish translate into proof of sexual harassment.
The court ruled that someone who commits sexual harassment shouldn't be able to later sue the victim when the original harassment complaint was justified. The court said there weren't enough substantial questions about the complaint that Michelle Evers filed against Roxana Recio to allow Recio's lawsuit to proceed.
Recio's lawsuit claimed the harassment complaint was politically motivated and related to discord in the modern languages department. The suit noted that Evers' complaint was filed with the school in 2004 - three years after the e-mails were exchanged.
"We are convinced that the system was being manipulated for political purposes that didn't have anything to do with sexual harassment," Recio's attorney, Kevin McCoy, said Friday. He said Recio, on sabbatical in Spain, was disappointed.
Evers' attorney, Thomas Hoarty, said he and his client "were very pleased" with the court decision. Evers has since moved to California.
Evers' complaint centered on a handful of e-mails in Spanish that Recio sent to her in 2001. In several, Recio wrote about how she would miss Evers while she traveled in Spain.
Recio said Evers' translation of the e-mails misrepresented their meaning. Recio is a native Spanish speaker and Cuban exile who grew up in Spain, while Evers was raised in Nebraska and learned Spanish as a second language.
Creighton officials sanctioned Recio in 2004, placed her on probation and ordered her to pay for counseling. Her lawsuit said the incident harmed her standing at the university and her actions shouldn't have been considered harassment.
The court quoted several e-mails Recio sent to Evers, including one that Evers translated as: "You don't understand because you see me like some nice person who tortures you with e-mails and who you will work with, you are kind, polite, etc. but for me it is different, Michelle, I feel so much for you, don't you notice?"
Recio said the phrase, "I feel so much for you," should have been translated as "I have developed some affection for you."
In another e-mail, Evers translated wording to "when I really like someone." Recio said it meant "when I am impressed by someone."
McCoy said Evers selected eight of Recio's e-mails out of context, and that Evers' e-mails were similar in tone. He said Recio's messages might be considered "effusive or at times melodramatic," but in no way threatening or sexually harassing.