Student in college admissions scandal sues Georgetown over potential expulsion after father pleads guilty

By Brian Pascus

/ CBS News

A Georgetown University student caught up in the college admissions scandal is suing Georgetown to prevent the school from potentially kicking him out.

Adam Semprevivo, the son of Los Angeles businessman Stephen Semprevivo, filed a lawsuit against Georgetown on Wednesday, seeking to stop the school from disciplining or expelling him for his alleged involvement in the college admissions scandal. Adam Semprevivo's lawsuit comes after his father pleaded guilty in a Boston court to paying $400,000 in bribes to get his son admitted into the private university in Washington, D.C.

Federal prosecutors documented in their March 2019 criminal complaint that Stephen Semprevivo worked with admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer to bribe Gordon Ernst, the Georgetown tennis coach, to designate his son, Adam, as a tennis recruit, even though his son did not play tennis competitively. Adam Semprevivo was admitted to Georgetown in 2016.

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In court documents, prosecutors allege both Semprivivo and his son followed instructions from Singer, the mastermind of the college admissions scheme, to submit "fabricated representations" about Adam Semprevivo's "purported tennis experience." The evidence includes emails Adam Semprevivo allegedly sent to Coach Ernst and an application essay that "falsely indicated that he played tennis during all four years of high school and was ranked in single and doubles tennis."

California businessman Stephen Semprevivo departs federal court May 7, 2019, in Boston, after pleading guilty to charges that he bribed the Georgetown tennis coach to get his son admitted to the school. Steven Senne / AP

"When I walk into a room people will normally look up and make a comment about my height — I'm 6'5'' — and ask me if I play basketball," the essay read, in part, according to court documents. "With a smile, I nod my head, but also insist that the sport I put my most energy into is tennis."

According to prosecutors, Semprevivo's application listed him as a "CIF Scholar Athlete" and "Academic All American" in tennis and basketball and claimed he made the "Nike Federation all Academic Athletic Team" in tennis. Court documents claim records from the United States Tennis Association do not match any records for Adam Semprevivo, and there is no mention of tennis in his high school transcripts.

The criminal complaint stated Adam Semprevivo was accepted into Georgetown University at the request of Ernst on April 22, 2016. According to prosecutors, since enrolling in the university he has not joined the tennis team.

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On Wednesday, Adam Semprevivo filed a lawsuit against Georgetown University alleging breach of contract and other claims. His lawsuit seeks "injunctive relief" preventing Georgetown from "revoking earned academic credits and subjecting Semprevivo to academic discipline," which could include measures "up through and including expulsion." The lawsuit claims his father entered into an agreement with Singer to get Adam admitted into Georgetown "without (his) knowledge."

Oddly, Semprevivo's lawsuit does not seek to refute any of the allegations in the prosecutorial documents, including the falsified application regarding his tennis ability, but rather blames Georgetown University for not verifying his admittedly misrepresented application.

"Despite the fact that these misrepresentations could have been easily verified and debunked before Georgetown formally admitted Semprevivo in April 2016, no one at Georgetown did so," the lawsuit reads "Even a cursory examination of the two documents (application vs. transcript) would have made it clear they were absolutely inconsistent with one another."

Georgetown Slavery
File photo of Georgetown University. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Semprevivo's lawsuit argues Georgetown University is "being disingenuous in its position" in pursuing discipline or expulsion because the university had been aware "as early as 2017 of the issues concerning Coach Ernst," and fired him in 2018, before the college admissions scandal became public knowledge in March 2019. Georgetown's student newspaper reported the university investigated Ernst's recruiting tactics as early as December 2017.

In a statement to CBS News, Georgetown University said it "cannot comment on pending litigation," but added "The University was not aware of any alleged criminal activity or acceptance of bribes by Mr. Ernst until it was later contacted by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The indictments filed by the U.S. Attorney this year named Georgetown and six other institutions as victims of fraud."

According to Adam Semprevivo's lawsuit, on May 14, 2019 he offered "to withdraw from the university with his credits intact and no unfavorable notations on his transcript," but Georgetown refused those terms. The suit also claims "Georgetown has failed to conduct disciplinary proceedings in this case that comply with any notions of fundamental fairness," and says the university followed "none of the steps" in its Honor Council System Procedures.

Semprevivo's lawsuit requests a jury trial for one count of breach of contract, one count of promissory estoppel — relating to Georgetown's alleged failure to ensure Semprevivo "fair due process" — and one count of unjust enrichment, relating to more than $200,000 of tuition the family has already paid to the university.

Semprevivo also requested an injunction against Georgetown barring the university from imposing any academic punishments, including expulsion, and from revoking any academic credits he earned while enrolled at the school for the past three years.

In its statement to CBS News, Georgetown University said:

"Applicants to Georgetown affirm that the information and statements contained in their applications are true, correct and complete. Knowingly misrepresenting or falsifying credentials in an application can be cause for rescinding the admission of the student and dismissal from Georgetown.

"Today, we informed two students of our intent to rescind their admission and dismiss them from Georgetown. Each student case was addressed individually and each student was given multiple opportunities to respond and provide information to the University."

Georgetown would not confirm if Adam Semprevivo is one of the two students whose admission is intended to be rescinded. CBS News' efforts to contact Adam Semprevivo's attorney were unsuccessful.

First published on May 15, 2019 / 4:13 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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