Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill took the stand Monday in his lawsuit to reclaim his job after being fired over allegations of plagiarism and research misconduct.
Churchill triggered national outrage with an essay comparing some Sept. 11, 2001 victims to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and other politicians wanted Churchill fired in January 2005.
Churchill was dismissed in July 2007 after the university launched an investigation into some of his other writings.
Wearing a brown sport coat and white shirt, Churchill told jurors that "Ward Churchill" is his "colonial" name. Churchill acknowledged he is controversial but said he was raised to be and always believed in telling truth.
He said he was not sorry for his essay which essentially argued that it was just a matter of time before the United States was attacked.
Churchill testified that he wasn't trying to be hurtful with his essay, but was making a point about U.S. politics.
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, said his client was the victim of a "howling mob" looking for a pretext to fire him.
Michael Radelet, CU sociology professor who served on the university committee that investigated Churchill, testified Monday that the investigation was unbiased and fair. He said the committee took no pleasure in Churchill's firing.
"Nobody smiled, nobody took any joy," he said, adding that Churchill was beloved on campus, "but he just cheated."
Radelet said one of the committee's conclusions was that Churchill misrepresented sources when he said Capt. John Smith intentionally spread smallpox through blankets to wipe out the Wapanoags Indians in the early 1600s. Radelet said Churchill was "making assertions that were unfounded."
Lane countered that Churchill simply said there was circumstantial evidence that pointed to Smith and the smallpox epidemic, and that that conclusion was Churchill's opinion, not a fabrication or a misrepresentation of other scholars' works.
Professor Tink Tinker of the Iliff School of Theology, an expert in Indian studies, said he has a high regard for Churchill's academic work. He says Churchill's work can not be overestimated, and added that Churchill is not a "liar."
Russell Means of the American Indian Movement also testified Monday.
Means is an elder with the Lakota Tribe. He said he has known Churchill since the late 1970s and said Churchill is a close personal friend. He said Churchill is a "champion" who is "righting the wrongs of history."
He calls the investigative report indicting Churchill a "scholarly massacre."
Previous testimony in the lawsuit has included that of former university President Elizabeth Hoffman, who said Churchill's Sept. 11 essay triggered an "all-out" assault on the school by conservatives. She said Gov. Owens called her asking her to fire Churchill. She said when she responded that she couldn't, he answered, "Then I will unleash my plan."
Owens denied threatening the university to fire Churchill.
"I don't recall it being in that tenor," Owens said.
The trial is now in its third week.
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