Reading Kafka at Harvard (7)

So Critical It Can Win The Case


Reading Kafka at Harvard (7)
by Kaveh Afrasiabi

Chapter Seven (Chapter 1) (Chapter 2) (Chapter 3) (Chapter 4) (Chapter 5) (Chapter 6)

So Critical It Can Win The Case
“It’s very critical. It’s so critical it can win this case or blow it right out of the water.” In the official court transcripts of the civil action, Afrasiabi versus Harvard, case number EFH12200, these words of the honorable justice Michael Harrington are found. It was day 8 of the jury trial and Judge Harrington was referring to the findings of the hand-writing experts stating that in their opinion the hand-writing of the Harvard detective on trial, Richard Mederos, matched the hand-writing of the person who had purportedly extorted money from the subordinates of professor Roy Mottahedeh. It meant that my allegation of a malicious conspiracy were about to be proved to the jury. Sadly, with the evidence being so critical and so damaging to the defendants, not to mention Harvard’s prestige, after giving the green light for the testimony of those experts, judge Harrington would reverse himself the next morning and exclude the experts’ testimony as well as any mention of their findings. “If you say as much as a word to the jurors about their letter, I will call a mistrial, do you hear?” Naturally, the case would be resolved in Harvard’s favor. Stealing justice, but please make sure you put a hyphen between just and ice.

Regardless, the representatives of Harvard University have maintained with a straight face ever since, “The case was resolved in courts.” This has been their standard response, e.g. by Eric Weinberger, from the university’s president’s office, to a growing number of people from various walks of life who had contacted Harvard on my behalf and asked the university to remedy the injustice to me and form an independent panel to investigate the crimes against me.

The trouble with the assumption that the courts had fairly adjudicated the “case” instead of making a humongous mockery of American justice was that it did not bother with the highly biased process, the judges’ favoritism, their sudden reversals on key evidence condemning the defendants, their legally untenable rulings, such as granting Rana’s motion for directed verdict even though as defendant in a civil conspiracy action she failed to appear and testify in court, not to mention the last minute betrayal by my attorney, Margaret Burnham; Burnham, it turned out, was a personal friend of Harvard’s general counsel at the time, Margaret Marshall, a South African attorney who was involved with the post-Apartheid Truth Commission and who would subsequently default a subpoena to testify at the trial (more on that later); even a minimally fair court would have granted my request for a brief postponement of the trial after Burnham walked out on me on the eve of the trial despite her signed contract to represent me at trial. But not so with judge Harrington: “It’s now or never, the choice is yours.”

But, of course, none of the above is least relevant to the administrators at Harvard University who would prefer that no one pays any attention to the details that went into the pro-Harvard judgments in courts, how the Goliath leaned on courts to curry favor from the hands of justice, some of whom came directly from Harvard. The mere fact that in my other defamation case in a Cambridge court, a Harvard judge with extensive connections with the university would dismiss my case on the day set for jury trial, with the jurors sitting in the next room, by reversing all his evidentiary rulings of a mere 9 days earlier, does not matter to the self-righteous Harvard administrators and in-house attorneys who parrot the line: “case was resolved in courts.”

Indeed, my entire ordeal, of victimization in the hands of law enforcement officials of a venerable university who lacked the proper jurisdiction to even investigate their own invented fictitious crimes, who would invade my home and every facet of my private life under the guise of “investigation,” and who would be let off the hook by courts in spite of a wealth of irrefutable evidence of their gross misconduct, has no better description than Kafkasque through and through.

Harvard’s Kafkasque Matrix

The Harvard gatekeepers, the henchmen of Harvard’s Kafkasque world. Like someone thrown in a snake pit, I would find them hissing at me everywhere, in the academia through the long reach of their tentacles at so many other academic and research institutions, in the media, that would faithfully put out news articles so disgustingly biased and one-sided that would insult the very notion of a free press, and, of course above all, in courts, where an abundance of gatekeepers would prevent the entry of my complaints to the inner sanctum of justice, keeping me out and slamming the door on my face each time I came close to within reach of justice, smelling it, seeing its colorful rainbow within the grasp of my eye sight and, thinking foolishly, justice at last, justice at last.

It was not to be and, instead, I would end up feeling like “the man from the country” in Kafka’s “Before the Law” who “perceives a radiance that streams immortally from the door of the law” and who waits a life-time trying to enter through the door and dies a frustrated man refused by a gatekeeper who shows the facies hippocratica of the legal system (with ostensibly open gates). I had embarked on my legal odyssey not thinking about Kafka and his haunting parables about the exhausting process of endless delay in meting out justice, the refusal that stands for law as nothing but empty rhetoric, so un-American a view point; instead, my lamp side readings were more sanguine authors, such as Harper Lee whose classic To Kill A Mockingbird was about the triumph of justice over injustice, or John Grisham, in A Time To Kill, who depicted how an outsider unjustly accused of a crime could somehow manage to beat the odds against him in the legal system.

I was wrong, totally wrong and, after meted out flagrant injustice time and again, in outright violation of the nominal rules and standards of the courts themselves, their arbitrariness without any rational or legal justification, I would realize how much better off I might have been if only I had paid serious attention to kafka’s ‘prophet of legal despair’; if I had, most likely I would have forfeited my crusade for justice, wielding the sword of law to strike down oppression. As a result, readers would forgive the author if today he feels more in league with the tragic protagonists of Kafka’s novels, such as In Amerika, featuring the futile struggle of a man, Karl Rossmann, trying to establish himself in an inexplicable land.

“If any law exists, it can only be this: the law is whatever the nobles do,” writes Kafka in “The Problem of Our Laws.” How true, and what supreme irony about American justice that has a comedic noir feel to it. I am today feeling pretty close to the driver in Kafka’s Amerika who depicts the “suffering of a poor man at the hands of the powerful.”

In the Trial, we see that a “painting by Titorelli which is supposed to represent the Goddess of justice becomes transfigured in the right light into a celebration of the Goddess of the Hunt.” Indeed, a Kafkasque world is a ‘tale of two cities’: “K. lived in a country with a legal constitution…all the laws were in force.” Writing these lines from the depth of my bottomless despair, I am perpetually reminded of kafka’s line: “The law is closed to him.”

”How could I be deluding myself?” Asks Joseph K. from a chaplain in The Trial and receives the answer: “You delude yourself in the court.” Definitely not a melancholic portrayal of Anglo-American justice paraded before our eyes by Lee or Grisham, but rather one that points at an elite lawlessness against the less privileged, in my case a first generation immigrant subjected to the Harvard ‘police state’ whose private mercenary cops carrying the badge of law (lacking the slightest public scrutiny) would violate my rights in full confidence, in their control matrix extending to courts and even the legal profession, I would be powerless to oppose their cavalier attitude for the rule of law. How else would the courts ignore the preponderant evidence of a non-commission of a crime, deny me a jury trial on the day set for trial in one case and exclude every conceivable evidence that proved Harvard’s treachery in the other?

”The case was resolved in court,” in richly Kafkasque tone the Harvard mouthpieces, these “functionaries of necessity” to borrow from Hannah Arendt, keep informing the world, truth and the faintest sense of justice being closed to them, reminding me of Nietzsche’s master and slave morality, for the simple and inescapable fact is this: there is no virtue in treating a treachery of justice as if there were justice; their apologia for Harvard’s transgressions and abuse of my human rights simply “elevates the lie,” to use a line from The Trial. Simple fact is that I could have rights, a decent minimally fair chance, in relation to Harvard like a ‘gram can balance the scale against the ton’, a completely hopeless cause that pitted me against an array of pitiless layers of Harvard’s gatekeepers every bit resembling Kafka’s description of the corrupt “judicial hierarchy” that employs “stupid inspectors and examining magistrates…but also sustains an entire magistracy of high rank with its indispensable retinue of valets, clerks, gendarmes and other auxiliaries.” How wonderfully Kafka captures the oppressive and absurd nature of the legal system that I had to deal with for nearly 8 years, my bitter experience so authenticating the “pre-rational,” the unintelligible and arbitrary courts he lamented and astutely warned in his fictions. May be I should have immitated Joseph K’s “dog-like submission” instead of Rossman’s futile attempt In Amerika -- to recruit the authorities in my insatiable thirst for justice.

“I do not understand the word extortion.” This from professor Mottahedeh in his vide-deposition, insisting that he had nothing to do with the crimes of extortion that his subordinate Shobhana Rana had alleged. Indeed, how could he be expected to take part in a sinister scheme when he did not understand what his target, me, was supposed to be charged with. Plausible denial, concealing information, and at the same time shamelessly going around afterward and claiming that he had mercy on me and “let go,” these are the hallmarks of a Kafkasque character who had committed gross misconduct against me and should have been dismissed from the university in light of all the evidence pointing at his indirect participation in the scheme against me via his subordinates, not to mention his prior misconduct cited in Mike Wallace’s letter to a federal judge. What makes my ordeal so chilling is the callous indifference of Harvard University to its own norms regarding faculty behavior, the fact that in every faculty contract there are stipulations for faculty dismissal in the event of gross misconduct unbecoming a faculty.

Denial he may until he dies, but nothing Mottahedeh and the rest of Harvard’s Kafkasque matrix do can possibly make disappear the preponderant evidence of their vicious abuse of my human rights that has been “hovering” over their head, to invoke a term from Friedrich Schlegel. In a Kafkasque world, the powerful violators of rights have layers after layers between you and them to protect themselves – that frustrate oppositions to their arbitrary exercise of power, despite the fact that nominally speaking such opposition has been one of the hallmark of the Anglo-American legal system and treaties. Unhinged from the trappings of American legal ideology, after having exhausted the entire length of the legal process in vain, I can state categorically that American justice system is one big lie.

Harvard’s Legal Dobermans

“This was the lawyer’s dog,” writes Kafka in The Trial. Talk about Harvard’s other gatekeepers, the loyal servants of its Kafkasque matrix of control whose inscrutable, vile, and totally shameless behavior throughout my ‘David and Goliath’ long battle with them resonated with Kafka’s cynical descriptions, for if Harvard had ordered them to “crawl under the bed as if it were a kennel and bark, Block would have done so with pleasure.” In my case, the Block had multiple names: Allan Ryan, Diane Lopez, John Rooney, Carol Kelly, Margaret Abruzese and, above all, Richard Riley (not to forget about Robert Breen, the public counselor that had been pre-screened to represent me on the day of my arrest, dealt with in Chapter Two). Nor should I omit my own week-long attorney, Margaret Burnham, whose betrayal of his client, me, on the eve of the trial of Harvard defendants mentioned above must register a chilling alarm to the civil liberty advocates in the proud state of Massachusetts, where Harvard ruthlessly rules over the court system as a feudal lord over his fiefdom, making a comic tragedy of the great pillars of American justice system.

Something about Harvard’s legal hired hands, those chic, meticulously well-dressed, articulate, self-righteous attorneys who were well-versed in the language of law and yet so poorly educated in the spirit of justice and, worse, who were so callously indifferent to a fellow human being’s suffering, only intent on beating him in court so that they could hand over the index card to Harvard’s spokespersons proudly spitting “the case was resolved in courts.” They often looked at me with slightly curious eyes, as if I were a Martian parachuted to those rather Byzantine courts, given my odd name they could never quite pronounce correctly, or my less than proper demeanor.

A Day in Court

“What happened to you Mister Afrasiabi, you went skiing?” Riley, suave and eternally agreeable, once asked me when I appeared in court unusually late, in fact a good couple of hours late. The $300 an hour attorney Riley might have been displeased with the sight of my snow-covered, ghost-like figure slipping through the doors, nearly a frozen man, but the little trickle of smile on the corners of his lips showed that late and all, my appearance would mean that he could send another fifty bill to Harvard for services rendered – for more than seven years.

More than once I would plead with Riley and tell him in person, in writing, or on the phone, “but Mister Riley, you’re a family man, I have a family too, and shouldn’t you have an ounce of humanity and give a damn that I am entitled to some relief?” What a waste of my breath. Harvard’s Doberman knew only how to bark, how to defend the phantasmagoric crime story as credible, how to delay the process and lengthen it so that he and his associate lawyers could send more bills to Harvard’s seemingly infinitely bottomless pocket; as it turns out, Harvard was willing to dish out untold hundreds of thousands of dollars, several millions by my crude estimate, to its errand hands that represented the university against me in state and federal courts, enriching those fat-cat attorneys who shamelessly nurtured themselves and fed on my misery and naïve faith in the justice system.

“I wish Mister Riley,” I answered Riley, sneezing repeatedly. Even my judge, hiding behind his ‘carnal disguise of neutrality,” had pity on me that day and asked if I were “alright. Do you want to reschedule Mister Afrasiabi?” It was a crucial hearing dealing with several pending motions filed by both sides and I had waited long enough. Sitting at my lonely table across from the defendants’ table crowded by Harvard’s attorneys flanked by several legal aids male and female, I stood and said “no thank you your honor, I am fine” but my dim voice was barely audible. The judge then asked impatiently why I was late and joked if I had forgotten to set my alarm? A sip of water to ease my frozen throat and then I told him that I couldn’t get any transportation to court.

”This is really unacceptable, to make the court wait for you this long. This is a federal court Mister Afrasiabi, you know what that means? What is the matter? There are no taxis in this town?”

”Yes there are, but you see your honor, I was taking the T. and.” I stopped in mid-sentence, debating if I should be forthright about the real reason; “T” referred to the commuter rail. “Yes?” the judge exhorted me with his impatient and inquisitive eyes to spill it out.

“Well, you honor, I took the green line from Newton Center and didn’t know about the fair hike. So the driver let me off at the next stop, in Cleveland Circle, and I had to walk the rest of the way.”
”You mean to tell me you walked from Cleveland Circle in Brookline to here?” That was a solid five or six miles, enough to freeze in that brutally cold Winter day.
”That’s right your honor.”
”Because you were short fifty cents, is that what you’re telling me?”
”Seventy five cents to be exact your honor.”
”And the driver kicked you out because you didn’t have extra seventy five cents to give him, am I hearing you right?”

“That’s right your honor.”

After a disbelieving meaningful stare at Harvard’s well-oiled attorneys, judge Harrington called a recess and then just as he was getting up to leave turned around and called us to the side bar and admonished Riley as much as he could. “What the hell is the matter with you? Why can’t you come to a settlement?” Riley was put on the defensive for once and as usual had the right words to fend off the judge’s unexpected anger. “It’s up to Harvard not me, your honor.”

”Up to Harvard,” always deferring the decisions, the blame for the lack of slightest care for justice, for decency and humanity, to others, to the faceless institution, like the visitor to Kafka’s The Castle, dealing with shadowy masters who are invisible to the public eye. But, I had reason to believe that Harvard’s decisions had been largely deferred into the hands of Riley, Kelly, Rooney, etc., that is, the private attorneys that the university had hired to represent them, who would bask in my prose status to curry favors from the courts, judges and clerks, and who had no qualm about repeatedly asking for rescheduling the hearings -- one time for Riley to go on vacation, another to attend a funeral of a relative -- even though such postponements always granted to them would be another injustice to me, a poor and powerless self-representing plaintiff who more than once would come to court empty-stomach, literally starving.

The months burn up as a fading lantern,

Homage to the majesty of the absurd.

Sure, I had the advantage of being on the meal plan at my refuge, Andover-Newton Theological School, where for some two years or so I lived in a tiny 6 by 14 dormitory as a graduate student after losing my job and prospects in the academia following my false arrest. But sometimes, I had to be in court before or after lunch time, which meant, in a few cases when I had little or no money to buy food at the court’s cafeteria (with my last penny consumed by the expensive depositions, endless copying, court fees, and the like), I would simply sit at a corner with my stomach growling and watching the small horde of Harvard’s attorneys enjoying their meal. Of course, they had no clue why I would be staring at them with a tinge of envy, nor did they ever show that they ever cared. I was simply a money-making object to them, who years after years added to their war chest in what Boston Globe once described as “Harvard battle.” After leaving the theology school in 1998, that meant my hungry appearances at the court would simply multiply. For a while, in addition to the disadvantage of showing up in court a hungry man who had to nevertheless marshal all his energy to make complex legal arguments in a multi-faceted legal case, I also had to battle the bout of a major psychological depression.

Losing My library, Battling Depression

I was inflicted by the emotional pain of the false arrest, imprisonment, public defamation, marginalization, loss of job, marriage, hardship of distance from my child, loneliness of living in a small dorm, and perpetually dealing with the endless shenanigan of Harvard’s attorneys, would recurrently lied about their compliance with discovery requests, etc., forcing me to file no less than a dozen letters of complaint citing Riley and company’s “unethical conduct.” Inevitably, I carried the scars of a psychologically depressed man about me nearly all the time. So many times I experienced set backs in courts, such as when judge Zobel robbed me of a jury trial in the defamation case, or when the federal judge Taurus resigned an hour after giving Harvard a deadline on a discovery order, that time and again I would descend to the vortex of a deep depression. Sometime, I would remain in bed all day, feeling so heavy and devoid of slightest energy, like someone who had been run over by a heavy truck, that I would miss the day light and have my breakfast at dinner time. The blows were hard to take and sometime harder than other times.

The day Sylvia and Sabrina packed up and left me crying all to myself, watching them get in the car through the kitchen window, was one of my gloomiest moments, but there were others, such as when to my utter horror I discovered one day that my entire library of books, my sole assets in the world, which I had deposited in a warehouse after being evicted by our landlord at Chase Street, had been thrown out due to non-payment of the measly fee.

“My books, my precious books, how could you do this to me? Do you have any idea what they were worth? They were books in five, six languages, in philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, rare novels, poetry, books that I had paid as much as five hundred dollars for, books that were worth a couple of thousands, not just any ordinary books, I am talking about Heinrich Heine’s or Goethe’s 19th century editions, do you have any idea?” I was hysterical, yelling.

“Never heard of them. Sorry man. You were three months late and you should have taken care of it, we’re very busy here.” The man at the warehouse in Dedham had no sympathy whatsoever and probably had never before seen someone shed tears over books, nearly 1500 of them, books that adorned every wall of my home, until I was forced to part company with them when I moved into my little room at Andover-Newton Theological School. My sadness and anguish was immeasurable. In trashing them, the guy had also robbed me of a small fortune, as I had intended in my last trip to the warehouse to pick up a few of the rare books I had collected over the years and sell them to a book dealer. The timing was especially bad, near Christmas, and that meant I had to borrow money again from my sisters in California for Christmas gifts for my daughter. She was one main reason why afflicted by depression and all, I kept fighting on, hoping that one day I could get a tangible respite and finally procure a comfortable future for her, clueless as I was back then about the extent of Harvard’s cruelty, the depth of selfishness of its hired hands who despised my ability to defeat their motions here and there, as it bruised their impeccable egos, and who would nevertheless have confidence that at the end of the day they would come out victorious regardless.

“Smile Mister Afrasiabi. You should smile more often,” Harrington once told me during the trial when I ran into him in the hallway and we exchanged a few niceties. Cheap advise I thought but kept it to myself and put on a fake smile for him, may be that would make him lean on my direction an inch or two, a farcical “Camusian grin’ that would cover the deep well of sorrow and anguish I felt within. Again, the naïve faith in the American justice system was itself one of my anti-depressant pills, giving me energy to fight on despite the odds, despite the abominable episodes after episodes of cunning duplicities and shenanigan by attorney Riley, Ryan, and others who enriched themselves out of my misfortune.

“You both conducted yourselves very well, and I want to congratulate you both,” said judge Harrington as he was shaking our hands, Riley and I, after the ten day jury trial was over and I had been meted out a major injustice; a few minutes earlier, he had made his final ruling in Afrasiabi versus Harvard, by ruling in favor of the other side’s motion for “attorney fee” pertaining to the jury trial alone. After all that I had endured and suffered over so many years, after witnessing the court’s travesty of reversing itself on key evidence that proved my allegation of civil conspiracy to violate my civil and human rights, I was now slapped with a court order to cover the hefty bill of private law firms representing Harvard, a combined bill of nearly $100,000. That was, of course, adding serious salt to a fresh injury, another illumination of great American justice. But, of course, Riley and his friends knew everything there was to know about my precarious financial status and even they did not expect me to satisfy judge Harrington’s final order. “Thank you your honor,” I said to the judge as we shook hands, before turning around and leaving a court that had just unmasked itself, its ether of law and justice, by its unfair and prejudicial rulings during the ten day trial, that from my vantage point gave new meaning to the term Kafkasque.


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more from Kaveh Afrasiabi

Ruling regarding handwriting

by HelloThere (not verified) on

So, what reason did the judge give for his ruling regarding the handwriting expert?

Before accusing him of bias and injustice, you need to tell us what his reasoning was. That way, we will be able to judge whether your accusation is fair or not.


Letter of Mr. Robert Harandi to Harvard President

by faraneh2 on

Dear President Faust:

I want to express my outrage at the serious mistreatment of Dr. Kaveh Afrasiabi by Harvard
police. Is this how your university treats your visiting scholars who
are well-known authors and happen to come from the Middle East ? Would
Dr. Afrasiabi be ever mistreated like this if his name were American? I
highly doubt that. I demand to know why Harvard has not apologized to
him even though Dr. Afrasiabi was exonerated of those fantastic charges
that were clearly fabricated to frame him? In my opinion, the federal
judge, who is quoted in Dr. Afrasiabi's book, is right for saying that
Harvard has damaged him and must compensate him for the damages to him
and his family.
I have read Dr. Afrasiabi's letter to the chief of
Harvard police demanding an internal investigation. He has cited
serious evidence that shows he was framed. If Harvard is serious about
truth, then it is imperative that this matter is investigated by an
independent panel at Harvard.
Also, I have read the letter of Mr. Mike Wallace that clearly states
that a Harvard professor lied to him about Dr. Afrasiabi. Have you
bothered to read that letter? Isn't that more than enough grounds to
reprimand that professor whose subordinates cried foul to cause trouble
for Dr. Afrasiabi. This is not good for Harvard's name and history will
judge you very severely if you fail to take steps to bring justice to
Dr. Afrasiabi.

Yours truly,

B. Robert Harand

Business&Political Consultant



by Zion on

Maybe, Faraneh, that is because what he tells here is not the reality, but a collection of twisted justifications and looney conspiracy theories. Don't you think that is the more reasonable explanation for this silence?


Seriously sad and so outrageous

by faraneh2 on

Every chapter of this story reads like a nightmare that gets worse and worse and I cannot imagine this happening to an Iranian academic in America and all our high brow academics choosing to stay silent instead of showing their outrage to Harvard.