Penn anthropologist sues Inquirer, Penn and others for criticizing his handling of MOVE victim’s remains
A University of Pennsylvania anthropologist who was accused last year of mishandling the remains of MOVE bombing victims, including using them to teach a class, has hit back in a lawsuit, alleging that she had been defamed by false accusations and unfairly portrayed as a racist.
Janet Monge, in a civil suit filed Friday in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, sues his employer, the University of Pennsylvania, and The Inquirer and other media, the Association of Black Anthropologists and the Society of Black Archaeologists, and other parties .
Monge claims she was demoted from her positions at Penn and suffered unfair damage to her reputation after the publication of The Inquirer and Billy Penn articles last spring detailing that she and a colleague, her mentor Alan Mann, had preserved bone fragments from children who died in the 1985 bombing and that Monge had used the remains in a video lesson.
Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a home belonging to MOVE members in West Philadelphia in 1985, killing six adults and five children. The city medical examiner gave Mann the children’s bones after the bombing to identify them. He couldn’t, but the remains weren’t returned to the city.
Also last year, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley resigned after admitting he had ordered the cremation of more remains of victims of the MOVE bombing, although the city later learned that his order had never been carried out. Penn and the city have launched investigations into the mishandling of the remains.
Penn released his report in August, condemning Mann and Monge for bully the leftovers and criticize Monge’s use of bones as a teaching aid.
According to Monge’s complaint, she was no longer authorized to teach at Penn, and she was demoted from associate curator at the Penn Museum to a position with lower pay.
In his lawsuit, Monge defended his use of the word “juicy” to describe leftovers in the video classroom – highlighted by media coverage last year as particularly offensive – as a term used in his field of study and research, not an insensitive or racist term. She also claimed that the remains had not been conclusively identified as a child. killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing by the city, in part because she could not reach the family. (Although Mann and Monge argued that the remains were not those of a teenage girl, the city concluded that they belonged to 14-year-old Katricia “Tree” Dotson Africa.)
Monge’s complaint claims that some of the information in the stories that criticized her came from a doctoral candidate, Paul Mitchell, who she says had a vendetta against her and was motivated to spread false information. Penn’s investigation published last year also cited Mitchell and said he “prompted” reports from The Inquirer and Billy Penn. Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, an activist and freelance writer who wrote the initial Inquirer article, said Mitchell did not elicit their comment.
Penn spokesman Ron Ozio and Timothy Spreitzer, a spokesperson representing The Inquirer, declined to comment on Monday.
Muhammad, an activist and freelance writer named in the lawsuit, called the complaint “baseless”.
“I don’t think it has merit,” Muhammad said. “There’s literally a video of her holding the remains, call them ‘juicy’. And then she claims she’s someone who fights for social justice. Why would you show the remains of a child black and the “juicy” in front of the camera?