A year after receiving an 18-month sentence to federal prison for sending threatening communications to Lamar University and its staff, former doctoral candidate Daniel Ogwoka Siringi is suing the university in an effort to obtain his diploma.
Arguing violations of due process and equal protection of the law, Siringi filed the lawsuit against Lamar University, University President James Simmons and Dean Oney Fitzpatrick on July 21 in Jefferson County District Court.
Siringi argues the defendants have violated the Texas Constitution by denying the conferral of Siringi's doctoral degree. He is asking the court to order the university to award him the degree.
According to court records, Dean Fitzpatrick's staff reviewed Siringi's dissertation and found that it did not meet university requirements. However, Siringi argues stating Fitzpatrick and his staff did not have a copy of his draft dissertation.
Initially, Siringi, 34, a chemical engineering doctoral candidate, was told he could participate in the December 2008 graduation ceremony but 10 days before the ceremony Siringi was removed from the participation list.
According to reports in the Beaumont Enterprise, Siringi submitted e-mails threatening to commit an act of violence against Lamar University and staff members if he was not permitted to graduate in the fall semester.
The e-mails contained threats to disrupt the December commencement ceremony and place the public "in fear of bodily injury," the Enterprise reported. References were also made to the Virginia Tech shootings in the e-mails.
Siringi said his acts were due to his frustration and he has since apologized, according to the lawsuit.
The U.S. Attorneys office reported that Siringi pleaded guilty to transmitting threatening communications, and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in July 2009. He is also prohibited from being on the grounds of Lamar University or contacting any official from Lamar or any Texas State University System school.
The plaintiff is represented by Larry Watts of Watts & Associates in Missouri City.
Judge Gary Sanderson,60th District Court, is assigned to the case.
Case No. B187-350