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Professor who faked stabbing in Chicago faced child porn probe

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



A University of Iowa researcher who faked his own stabbing in Chicago last year was under investigation by campus police for child pornography at the time, according to a police report made public Friday.

The University of Iowa has refused to release details about its investigation of Dr. Gary Hunninghake, who has been on leave for 10 months earning his $360,000 annual salary. But The Daily Iowan obtained a report from Chicago Police and reported Friday that UI police closed their investigation of whether Hunninghake violated child pornography laws last year without charges being filed.

Hunninghake, 64, the former director of the UI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, has filed a lawsuit to block the release of information about the pornography investigation, arguing that its publication would destroy his reputation as an educator and scientist. An assistant state attorney general representing the university indicated last month the school wouldn’t fight Hunninghake’s petition, saying he may have grounds to shield the records being sought by the news media. A hearing is set for April 1.

Last April 23, police officers investigating child pornography allegations against Hunninghake served search warrants at his university office and Coralville home.

Less than 24 hours later, Hunninghake, who was immediately placed on leave, was supposed to be attending a conference in Chicago when he showed up at an emergency room with stab wounds to his chest, abdomen and shoulder. He told authorities he had been robbed and stabbed by three white assailants while jogging on the Riverwalk, a claim that prompted a manhunt, generated intense media coverage and scared the public.

UI Associate Director of Public Safety Bill Searls alerted Chicago investigators on April 26 about the child pornography investigation, saying he questioned the validity of the stabbing report given its timing after the search warrants were served. Hunninghake had told UI Police detectives about the incident, and his story to them contained “numerous and blatant inconsistencies” with what he told Chicago Police, the report said.

Confronted with those contradictions, Hunninghake told a Chicago detective he had made up the story and stabbed himself with a steak knife he had purchased as part of a set and threw in the river, the report said. Asked whether he was trying to kill himself or gain sympathy, Hunninghake told police “he was not sure what he was trying to (do) and explained that he was in a strange state of mind when he did this.”

The report does not elaborate on what sparked the pornography investigation or include any other details about it.

Hunninghake was charged with making a false police report, a felony, and agreed to turn himself in. Under a plea agreement in January, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and was sentenced to probation and 40 hours of community service and ordered to pay $15,565 to reimburse authorities for their search for the fictional assailants.

Hunninghake has collected $300,000 while on leave.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said first that the university was in the process of taking disciplinary action against Hunninghake, but added that Hunninghake remained a salaried university employee. Moore noted that, in general, faculty members accused of violating school policy have a right to a hearing before a panel of their colleagues before any action is taken.

Hunninghake and his attorney, Leon Spies, did not immediately return messages Friday.



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