Friday, July 31, 2020

Eminent Turkish prehistorian Necmi Karul publicly accused of sexual misconduct

Necmi Karul
As the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct spreads across the globe, many powerful men (and a few women) who have abused their positions of power are being called out by survivors of their abuse. Most recently it was Luis Jaime Castillo Butters of Peru, who is now under investigation by his university.

Earlier this month, I Tweeted about allegations concerning Necmi Karul, a high profile prehistorian at Istanbul University, whose archaeological projects now include the spectacular and Neolithic site of Gobekli Tepe. Very shortly afterwards, the story hit the Turkish press, including a story in English. The university has now put Karul on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Two students have currently accused Karul of misconduct. One of them issued a five page public letter, which a colleague was kind enough to translate into English for me and which I have pasted below. It is very detailed and compelling.

I contacted Karul to get his comments on the allegations. I am posting his response in full:

Dear Professor Walter [sic],

Currently there is nothing more than the unattested claims in a letter; however, this has turned into a lynching campaign featuring the accumulated animosities that seems to have been exploded with fury to the dignity of my professional career. I have put the matter to the court, and as a legal process is on, I can make no further statements besides my explanation in my personal twitter account. Thus, until the legal process is over, I expect respect to my personal rights. One point noted in your twitter post needs to be corrected, I have not resigned, I am still keeping my position.


Necmi Karul

Prof. Dr. Necmi Karul
Istanbul University
Faculty of Letters,
Department of Prehistory
34459 Laleli ─░stanbul

Note from MB: I never wrote that Karul had resigned, only that he had been put on leave.

Here is the letter from the student referred to above, Canay Alpagut, which she intended to be public. I will post further developments as they arise.

Page 1:
1) "Where I come from, people ask: 'do you consent?'; so I'm asking you, 'do you consent Canay?". (Necmi Karul asked her this question)
When I was asked this question, I finally started to understand  that something was wrong. Even though things happened before that I did not want to believe actually happened, being asked the question "do you consent" unfortunately became only the beginning of the harassment I eventually lived through.

2) I am Canay Alpagut- someone whom you might know well or not so well, or not know at all. I started my archaeology education at Istanbul University in 2006 (as an undergraduate) and continued as a graduate (Master's) student in 2011, at the same university, graduating in 2016. I participated in the excavations at Aktopraklik between 2007-2016, and at Gusir Hoyuk between 2012-2014. I write this letter as a woman who was harassed by her "teacher" Necmi Karul (I worked with him for 10 years) and who has to tell her story no matter what and who was forced to change her life completely due to the harassment.

3) First, I started receiving messages that said "shall we drink raki together one evening?". Since I didn't understand (or could not imagine him doing this), I said "sure Professor why not, we can drink; or I can organize the whole excavation team to go out one evening". By using answers like this, I tried to manage the situation and to try to understand what was happening. But he called me one night when I was out and said "I am in Taksim with my friends, why don't you guys come and join us" (he had found out, when we were at school during the day, that I was going out that evening). This made me uneasy and scared, so I didn't want to go where he was- I was forced to lie and said "I am going home". From the tone of his voice, it was obvious that he was drunk. Then he started asking me some questions and when I said I didn't understand, he directly asked me: "Where I come from, people ask: 'do you consent?'; so I'm asking you, 'do you consent Canay?". I said "Professor, you are probably drunk, and my answer is no, let's close the subject". But of course it didn't end there- in fact, it was just beginning. Like many women who are harassed, I said to myself: "I must be misunderstanding him; this can't be what I think it is; a person with whom I've been working for many years and who has trained me and who I call Professor cannot be doing this to me". After a while, I understood that in fact, he could do it without any hesitation and feeling of shame. Even though the harassment was not that bad when we were in Istanbul (as a woman, one is even made to put up with this kind of behaviour), his behaviour became very disturbing during the times when we were doing fieldwork. For a long time, I blamed myself and asked myself if I caused this; if I behaved as if I was consenting; if I opened the door to him and allowed him to come in. This is the gist of the problem: the harassment is carried out in a hierarchical context and planned so that the woman blames herself, is not able to share her experiences with anyone and becomes unable to say anything.

4) Even though I was unable to say anything to him openly- the fact that I was running away from him every time he made a move, that I was evading his questions, that I never sat down to drink raki with him- all of these things showed clearly that this was not "something that both parties consented to". Regardless, he continued to push/harass me, and I continued to remain quiet.

Page 2:
1) He would always compliment my fingers, he would talk about how thin and long they were. When I was taking something from his hands or giving him something, or when we would look at artifacts together he would hold me from my fingers and try to pull me toward himself; and when I did not allow this and pulled my fingers back he would say "you are stupid". One incident I can never forget took place at the Gusir Hoyuk excavation house during the summer of 2014. When we went to the storeroom so I could show him something I had worked on, he held my fingers tight and pulled me toward himself; as I pulled myself back equally hard and could only exclaim "Professor!", he called me "stupid" and left, and did not talk to me for some time as if I was the one who was guilty.

 2) The harassment continued for 2 excavation seasons, due to the type of lifestyle allowed by fieldwork/excavation and the fact that I did not object to what was happening. I was face to face with special treatment and interest (from Necmi Karul) that I had not experienced before. Although what was happening was not mutual, I was very worried that people would misunderstand or think that there was something going on between us. Because here was an excavation "director" who was constantly preoccupied with me. I was afraid that if I reacted in any way, he could use his power to shut me up- I didn't know what to do because of my fear. I always found excuses. At the beginning I said to myself that he is my "Professor" and he is training me, and that's why he pays me special attention. I tried to make myself believe that the reason he was paying special attention to me was because our work has a social dimension and that this justifies closeness. For a long time, I tried to make myself believe that this was not harassment by finding reasons for it that didn't make sense. For a while I even thought that I was exaggerating. But when it became impossible for me to escape reality and to deny the truth, I was face to face with an obvious case of sexual harassment. I was not exaggerating, he was harassing me!

3) I thought about what I should do, for a long time. I started seeing a psychologist and of course got a lot of support from her. Thanks to this support, I knew that I needed to expose the harassment, but the whole thing ended with what was going on inside me. I was afraid and powerless; or I thought that I was powerless. I did not speak up because I was convinced that if I said anything about the harassment, I would be destroyed. I came up with solutions on a daily basis; I tried to stay away, I tried to be invisible as much as possible. I was writing my Masters thesis and thought that I should finish it no matter what; and yes, I did finish it. But what happened? I had to leave the city I loved (Istanbul, where I had wanted to live until I die), and the wounds/damage remained with me (which might stay with me for a lifetime). What happened? The harasser/abuser continued his life where he left off. Now I say to myself: I wish that I had not finished that thesis and had exposed Necmi Karul.

4) For me, everything became unbearable in 2015 during the Aktopraklik excavation season. At this point, his interest in me had become extreme. He wanted me to accompany him everywhere he went, and wanted me with him at all times. His interest in my fingers also continued. One time we had gone to the construction supplies store and he wanted to eat a meal together afterward and watch the Besiktas soccer game together. We sat down somewhere and while we were talking, he said that I had gained a little bit of weight and that I was beautiful, and that extra weight looked good on me.

Page 3:
1) Unfortunately, like many women, I also did not know what to do and said "Thank you, Professor(!)", instead of getting up and leaving. He tried to hold my fingers again and I said "Professor, please" and I was forced to move my arms under the table so he could not touch them. I was constantly wondering about what other people might be thinking; wondering if they were guessing what was happening and could not ask me, or if they genuinely did not see what was happening. I was wondering if other people were really not aware of the special attention I was getting (from Necmi Karul).

2) The same year (summer of 2015), during a week when we held the archaeological field school, when I was in the area of the site called "wooden houses" where we were to hold the metallurgy class, he (Necmi Karul) called me and told me he could see me from where he was standing. At first he asked me questions like "Is everything okay over there?"; then he said "I can see you from here, you're holding a water bottle; I'm very thirsty too, can you bring me some water", so I asked him where he was. He was in one of the wooden houses. I still remember the feelings I had as I walked to that wooden house. I went inside and gave him the water bottle. The way he looked at me was very disturbing. He was sitting on the floor and indicated with his hand that I should sit next to him on the floor (he said "come here"); I tried to avoid it with my usual "tactic" and made up an excuse that I had to go (I pointed out that there were people outside); and I left the room. I still remember the way he looked at me and his body language.

3) Since I was close to finishing my Master's, I had decided that I should finish my thesis and leave that place. I now look back at that time and recognize that I was going through a very difficult time psychologically. I had decided, definitively, that I should escape, instead of making a complaint about him, and I was planning my next steps accordingly. My aim was to finish my Master's degree and move to another country for my PhD.

4) During the same excavation season (summer of 2015), he had to examine the material (i.e. the artifacts) with me as my "thesis advisor", and since I was afraid to be alone with him, I was trying to make an appointment with him during the day, but he preferred the evening. On a night when he had set up his raki table and had started to drink, he suggested we look at the material/artifacts together. Toward the end of the evening, he came to the pottery garden/area. We started to look at the material. Every time I handed him a potsherd, he would touch my entire hand along with the potsherd and would constantly look at me in a disturbing way, with a suggestive smile in his face. After a while, he tried to pull me toward himself by holding my t-shirt, but I did not let him- I was frozen. Then he said "I am going to turn this table lamp off, I will go to my room, and you will follow me to my room". I said "no Professor, don't do this, I will not follow". He punched the table (covered of pottery) with his fist and repeated "I said you are coming", and then left the room. I can still hear the sound the pottery made, when he hit that table. I have not forgotten how my knees trembled from fear, after he left. I ran to my room and decided that I had to put a stop to this once and for all. The next day....

Page 4:
...we continued our lives as if nothing had happened the night before. But actually, it was over for me.

1) After the 2015 excavation season, I returned to Istanbul and concentrated on my thesis- I was convinced that I had to finish it and that otherwise the harassment would get worse/ugly (it was bad/ugly already). Soon after I submitted my Master's thesis (in June 2016) we went to the excavation site and I told everyone that I had decided to go to England (I had not told anyone this before). Since I had already made all the preparations nobody could object, but my "Professor" reacted to this and scolded me for making this decision independently. I told him that I had made this decision with my family and that I was going (to England) for language study. While this was true, my real aim was to get out of this black hole and to decide what I wanted to do. I left the excavation by telling people that I had to go to Istanbul to apply for a visa and that I would be back; but I never went back. Some of my friends on the dig asked me why I didn't tell anyone that I would not come back; I tried to deflect their questions by using my "tactic" and made up excuses by saying that I was not doing well psychologically. My "Professor" asked me why I would do such a thing and told me that he didn't know what to say to the other people on the dig about it (of course I could not tell him to explain to them that he had been sexually harassing me). After this, I started blaming myself even more, about why I left the dig and why I was lying. Necmi Karul asked me to write an email to him declaring that I was not doing well psychologically- it was obvious that he wanted to show the email to others and wanted to use the email to blame me, since he knew what he had done. Yes, maybe I should not have left the excavation and left my life behind, but I felt helpless and believed that I could save my life by doing this, so I ran away. I blamed myself even more because I ran away. When I arrived in England, I sent an email to my "Professor" which said that I was not doing well psychologically during that time and that this was why I had left the excavation; I even apologized. I was apologizing even though I was not guilty; he continued to come on top even though he knew what he had done (everything he had done).

2) I moved to Germany in 2017. I still live here and I am doing my PhD. Before I came here, I wrote him (Necmi Karul) emails to ask for a letter of recommendation. I had put a lot of time and effort into the Aktopraklik excavation, so I asked for what I deserved and I got it. After I settled down here (i.e., in Germany), I wrote to him and apologized again (I was feeling very guilty); I asked him to forgive me for having left the excavation in a manner that was inappropriate; I TAKE BACK ALL OF MY APOLOGIES, IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. I am not guilty but he is a harasser!

3) In this letter, I've told you about the incidents that have left me scarred the most. I have been living with the weight of these (and other incidents I have not mentioned here) for the last 4 years. I have been carrying this weight on my shoulders wherever I go; I want this weight to be lifted off my shoulders. I had been blaming myself for not facing him in the past and telling him that he is a "sexual harasser"; for running away without being able to tell anyone about it and for lying about it. I almost lost my self-esteem, self-respect, and honor, but feel that I am beginning to heal thanks to the new life I established here.

Page 5:
1) I started to regain my strength, and decided (as a woman) to expose this harassment no matter what. If there is anyone among you who are blaming me for leaving Necmi Karul behind, I am revealing the truth: Necmi Karul sexually harassed me and I ran away from him. I did not stab anyone in the back; rather, I left because I could not accept what was being done to me; I left because I was afraid; I left because I could not make a complaint and if I did, he would destroy me (with the power he held in his hand).

2) After a long time, when I started to heal, I understood that staying silent and hiding (myself) & keeping it a secret was nothing more than betraying myself. I cannot continue to live my life the way I want and do what I do well, if I don't overcome this (I cannot forget what happened). This harassment has in fact been bothering me for the last 4 years and has been continuing to damage me. Although I thought that I forgot what happened (what I was made to endure), that I had overcome the trauma, my wounds in fact have become deeper as I failed to confront it. Because, in fact, I did not forget anything. I realize now that I don't want to continue to live my life without completely killing off the virus that is inside of me. I cannot stay silent about what was done to me and betray the women who will work on that man's excavation projects in the future. I can no longer turn my back on women's solidarity. From now on, I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide. I am not afraid of anyone; I am here as a woman who was sexually harassed and I know my strength. I am not the person who should be afraid and who should blame herself/himself. I am here, holding my head high, and from this moment forward I choose to expose this harassment openly (I will not be silent in my personal life or my academic life).

Canay Alpagut

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Student sexually assaulted by then-husband of University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin writes to Chancellor about the university's failure to help her [Updated July 31, 2020]

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang
Last Sunday I posted about the failure of the University of California, Santa Barbara Title IX office to investigate  complaints against UCSB archaeologist Danielle Kurin. In 2018, at Kurin's archaeological field school in Peru, two students were sexually assaulted by Kurin's then-husband, Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque. One of them, whom I called Student No. 3 to protect her identity, was particularly traumatized and has not recovered from the experience. But that has not stopped her from fighting for justice for herself and other survivors of Gomez's assaults and Kurin's continual attempts to cover them up.

In the meantime, Kurin has sued me for defamation, demanding $10 million in damages, for my truthful and accurate reporting about her long history of misconduct--which includes a 2016 Title IX finding that she had retaliated against students who reported sexual harassment by Gomez at her 2015 field school (Kurin later married Gomez and only recently divorced him.)

Tonight, Student No. 3 has written to the Chancellor of UCSB, Henry T. Yang, about the university's failures to protect students. I am reproducing her letter below, with her name redacted, as she wishes to protect her identity. However, she has identified herself to Chancellor Yang, so he knows well that she is a real person and is standing by her statements.

I want to make clear that I had nothing to do with the composition of this letter, nor Student No. 3's decision to write it, even if she utilizes some of my reporting in it (without journalism, few if any would know the truth about Kurin's misconduct and the university's failure to stop it, even allowing her to put students in danger again after the events of 2015 and 2016.)

I will keep readers updated on the response Student No. 3 gets from the Chancellor and what further action, if any, the university takes in this matter.

Dear Chancellor Yang,

My name is ___________ and I was recently involved in a Title IX case involving UCSB Professor Danielle Kurin. You may know her personally, you may not. However, as Chancellor, you should be aware that she has already been involved in a 2016 Title IX case in which she was found guilty for retaliating against a student who was assaulted by her now ex-husband. Even with the cases put forth, she is up for tenure in September 2020. 

In the summer of 2018, I attended a field school in Peru headed by Professor Kurin and ran through the company IFR. The weekend before we all left Peru to return home, Danielle’s ex-husband sexually assaulted me. Danielle proceeded to handle the matter abhorrently. She  blamed me and never apologized for what happened to me under her care. I will not take the time in this letter to explain more about the incident itself. You can do the research, I am not the first woman this has happened to. 

When I came forward with my story about what happened the night I was assaulted, I had a lot of support and evidence. Surely, I thought, with a Title IX case already on her record and now this, that’s enough for some action to be taken to ensure the safety of current and future UCSB students. After weeks of waiting to hear back, I got a call explaining that no action would be taken because the incident occurred in a program not run by UCSB, although run by a UCSB professor. I was told that Kurin would face no repercussions for the part she played in my assault and the general misconduct she engaged in because of jurisdictional issues. Perhaps, your TItle IX office has prematurely decided to enact the new regulations that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos approved which excludes most cases of sexual assault that occur off-campus. Let me remind you, those do not go into effect until August 14th, and until then it is your responsibility to hold your professors accountable for their misconduct, even if it occurred off-campus. So it seems UCSB has been overhasty in using ‘jurisdiction’ as an excuse to dismiss this case because that’s all it is… an excuse. It’s an excuse not to take responsibility and an excuse to turn the other cheek because that’s easier. I am so tired of this kind of response. It’s outdated and archaic and I expected more accountability and transparency from UCSB. I am asking you, Chancellor, to stop looking for excuses not to listen to the voices of victims of sexual assault, and to reconcile what has happened. 

This experience deterred me from attending other archaeological field schools. It has left me feeling unsafe in the field that I am most passionate about. The dismissal of my case, and consequently the dismissal of my assault, has made me feel unsupported and unsafe in a university setting. Ultimately, leading me to question whether to continue onto grad school. I do not feel inclined to continue putting time and money into Institutions that do not have the students’ best interest at heart. 

Chancellor Yang, this is your call to action. Be a part of a positive change in the system that has for so long protected abusers and the powerful and privileged. 

Update July 31, 2020: For those who want to write to Chancellor Yang

Chancellor Henry Yang
Office of the Chancellor 5221 Cheadle Hall Santa Barbara, CA 93106 Mailcode: 2030

Sunday, July 26, 2020

UC Santa Barbara turns back a wave of Title IX complaints against archaeologist Danielle Kurin on jurisdictional grounds

Last month, in an update to a report on this blog about misconduct allegations against University of California, Santa Barbara, archaeologist Danielle Kurin, I wrote about a Title IX complaint that had been filed by an alleged victim of sexual assault. The assault, at the hands of Kurin's then husband, Enmanuel Gomez Choque, took place at a field school in Peru that Kurin directed in 2018. The survivor of the assault, whom I identified as Student No. 3 to protect her identity, told me that her complaint had been rejected on the grounds that the incident took place in Peru and was not a UCSB activity.

Traditionally, under Title IX, faculty members have been held responsible for their behavior even when outside the United States. However, under the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, new regulations designed to significantly weaken Title IX protections are due to go into effect on August 14. A number of organizations have filed suit in federal court to block some or all of these regulatory changes, and so it is possible that UCSB's Title IX office has jumped the gun and put them into effect before it is actually necessary to do so.

In my June 10 update on this, Student No. 3, who has been traumatized by her experiences to the extent that she no longer wants to participate in archaeological field schools, commented on the university's handling of her complaint:

"I got the news about Title IX last Friday. I have taken a couple of weeks to digest. Essentially, because the incident occurred in a program (through IFR) that was not sanctioned or ran by USCB, it is out of their jurisdiction to take any action. I pressed and mentioned that surely two filings against Kurin is enough to at least reevaluate her as a professor, but the woman I spoke to simply repeated the information about jurisdiction."

[Student No. 3 is referring to other Title IX complaints that were filed around the time that hers was]

Student No. 3 further commented:

"I have...expressed my utmost concern about Kurin continuing to use her position to lure unsuspecting students to Peru with her and her husband...Kurin and Emanuel are predators who use the trust that students put in them as professionals against them (the students)."

In the end, a number of complaints against Kurin were filed with the Title IX office this past spring; as I reported earlier, in 2016 the Title IX office found that Kurin had retaliated against students who filed complaints about Gomez's harassment of them during a field school in Peru in 2015 (which was also confirmed in that earlier investigation.) So one might say that this is the second wave of Title IX complaints that have been filed against Kurin.

Everyone who filed complaints in this most recent wave, as far as I know, received the same email from Courtney Brunasso of the Title IX office. I have written to Ms. Brunasso to ask for clarification about the basis on which this jurisdictional issue precluded processing the complaints, and whether indeed the office had pre-emptively applied regulations that are not currently in effect, might not go into effect until August, and/or might be delayed or cancelled if the current litigation is successful. I will let readers know how she responds.

Ms. Brunasso's email to Title IX complainants:

"Thank you for your report to the Title IX Office involving Danielle Kurin.  Based on the information presented, we connected with the identified Complainant(s) with known contact information and completed our assessment based on the available information. Due to limitations in jurisdiction, the Title IX Office does not have the authority to further respond, and this matter is now closed. 

The University policy encourages all of its community members to promptly report to the Title IX Office any conduct that may constitute sexual harassment/sexual violence.  Through your actions, you dutifully complied with the procedures outlined by this policy and we appreciate your immediate report of this issue.  Please don't hesitate to contact our office if you have further questions or concerns.

All the best,

Courtney Brunasso
Case Resolution Officer
Title IX & Sexual Harassment Policy Compliance Office
3211 Phelps Hall 
University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2065
(805) 893-5286"

Addendum: The Institute for Field Research, which sponsored Kurin's 2018 field school, found her to have engaged in misconduct in regards to the sexual assault of Student No. 3. In a defamation suit Kurin has filed against me for my truthful reporting on her history and behavior, Kurin claims that IFR only found against Gomez and another Peruvian, and that it had ended its association with her "without prejudice." That is false, as is clear not only from the IFR's former executive director's statement to the field school students (see below, I have published this image before), but also according to IFR officials in a "Town Hall" they held recently with UCLA graduate students.

While the IFR was careful about making any public statements about severing its relationship with Kurin, its representatives told students that at least one reason she was found to have committed misconduct was that she allowed a drunken Gomez into the house where the students were living even though the sexual assault victim was sheltering and hiding there. 

"It was her duty to prevent him access to us and she failed to do so," as one of the students put it.

As I reported earlier, she then tried to mollify the students during a meeting the next day, and even suggested (there are recordings) that it was the student's own fault for drinking.

Boytner's message to the 2018 field school students

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Of divorce, deception, and defamation: Did UC Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin tell the truth? [Updated July 29, 2020]

Did Danielle Kurin tell the truth about her relationship with her ex-husband?
As readers of this blog know, late last month I was sued for defamation by University of  California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin. The lawsuit was filed in the now famous U.S. District Court for Southern New York (filing such a suit in federal court is allowed when the parties live in different states and the damages sought exceed $75,000.)

Kurin is demanding $18 million in damages, and insisting that I delete all reporting I have done on the misconduct allegations against her. That reporting, consisting mainly of two blog reports which can be found here and here and a number of updates and commentaries on social media, uncovered documented evidence that she had retaliated against students who reported sexual harassment by her now ex-husband, Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque. That retaliation took place in the wake of a 2015 archaeological field school that Kurin and Gomez ran in and around Andahuaylas,  Peru, where Gomez is based. In a 2016 Title IX proceeding, the couple was found to have committed misconduct based on the standard of a "preponderance of the evidence."

The university put Kurin on a three year administrative leave between 2016-2019, but did not fire her. Yet while she was on leave, during a 2018 field school Kurin directed in Peru, Gomez sexually assaulted two female students, one of them seriously enough to leave her badly traumatized. The matter was investigated by the Institute for Field Research, which had sponsored the field school; in October 2018, the IFR severed all association with Kurin. And last fall, as her administrative leave ended, Kurin went back to teaching at UCSB. During the three year leave, very few colleagues in UCSB's anthropology department were told why she had been on leave, or that a Title IX proceeding had been involved, until I first reported on it last February. Some did know, however, that Kurin had unsuccessfully sued the Regents of the University of California for a promotion she felt she was entitled to; she lost that case.

At the time of Kurin's return to work last fall, she told a number of colleagues that she had already divorced Gomez. She also claimed that she had broken off all association with the Peruvian archaeologist. In the lawsuit filed against me, she insisted that her only contact with Gomez over the past two years had been to resolve matters pertaining to the divorce (which was uncontested.) Kurin is set to begin her tenure process in September, which, if successful, would lead to her becoming a permanent faculty member by next spring. Kurin knows that creating the appearance that she has broken with her past behavior, and with Gomez, is essential for demonstrating that she is suitable for permanent status.

As her attorney put it in an article about the defamation case in the UCSB student paper, the Daily Nexus:

“Dr. Kurin is not a perfect individual. She made some mistakes a few years ago and has apologized for them, acknowledged them, took responsibility for her actions and completed a settlement with the university that everybody was happy with.”

But the records of Kurin's divorce proceedings, which are public documents and which I obtained from the California Superior Court for the County of Santa Barbara, indicate that her divorce from Gomez was not  final until December 1, 2019, at least three months after she began telling colleagues that she was already divorced.

Moreover, while Kurin claimed in the defamation complaint and to colleagues that it was over between her and Gomez, witnesses put her not only in Andahuaylas, but in Gomez's house and, in the case of two witnesses, in his bedroom, on multiple occasions during 2019. I provide further details below. And I am happy that Kurin, through her attorney, has finally provided a statement to me about these matters. Earlier this year, I repeatedly asked her to comment for my reporting, in emails dated January 9, February 20, March 7,  and March 11, to which she did not respond. (Kurin's lawyer, Dave Scher of the Hoyer Law Group, did comment earlier on the case, for the article cited above in the Daily Nexus.)

Questions for Danielle Kurin about her relationship with Enmanuel  Gomez  Choque

I was served with the defamation suit in late June, and for a short period earlier this month the parties explored the possibility of an early settlement. Federal Rules of Evidence 408 forbid me from discussing the details, but I retained an attorney for this purpose using funds kindly donated by contributors to my GoFundMe legal defense site. For now, at least, I am representing myself in the lawsuit, which means I am in the odd situation of wearing two hats: That of reporter, and that of lawyer (as the old joke goes, I may have a fool for a client, although I hope not.) As a #MeToo reporter, I have tried to follow the long and proud tradition of advocacy journalism: While my reporting must be rigorous and accurate, I am not required to be neutral about whether sexual misconduct is acceptable (I explain my work in a recent interview with the good folks at the Fieldwork Initiative.)

This case raises lots of important questions about freedom of the press, the First Amendment, and the use and abuse of defamation suits, which I will explore in future posts. For now, I will focus on the immediate question of whether Danielle Kurin has told the truth about her relationship with Gomez.

Here are the questions I put to Scher about these matters, followed by his responses, which I have agreed to post here unedited and in full:

Dear Mr. Scher,

I will be doing a new blog post about the issues surrounding Dr. Kurin later this week. I would ask her to comment (through you, of course) on a few issues that have arisen. I have obtained the entire case file of the divorce between Dr. Kurin and Mr. Gomez, and my questions are based on the information in those documents plus other information from sources.

1. When Dr. Kurin returned to teaching at UCSB last fall, she reportedly told a number of colleagues that she was already divorced from Mr. Gomez. However, the court files indicate that the divorce became final on December 1, 2019. Does Dr. Kurin agree that she told colleagues she was already divorced? If so, why did she do so?

2. Mr. Gomez was served several times with papers related to the divorce, by a service engaged by Dr. Kurin's attorney. In each case the papers were sent to Mr. Gomez by email and mailed to the Falls Church, VA address of Richard Kurin, Dr. Kurin's father. Those service records indicate that Mr. Gomez signed to acknowledge receipt of the documents, with the Falls Church address again indicated below his signature. Why were the papers for Mr. Gomez sent to Richard Kurin's house rather than to Peru or some other location? Was Mr. Gomez physically present at the Falls Church house at any time between May 9 and July 18, 2019? Was he there at the same time as Dr. Kurin?

3. I have a number of sources who indicate that Dr. Kurin was present in and around Andahuaylas, Peru, at least twice during 2019. The sources indicate that Dr. Kurin lived with Mr. Gomez in his home in Andahuaylas during those visits. Could Dr. Kurin comment on these observations, and either confirm, deny, or clarify whether she was present with Mr. Gomez at least twice last year?

I hope that you will provide responses to these questions, which reflect my ongoing attempts to get Dr. Kurin to comment on my reporting about her and give her a fair chance to contradict or modify any of my findings. If she does not want to respond to any of the questions, please let me know that as well and I will indicate it in my report.

With thanks,

Michael Balter

Scher's response:

“Dr. Kurin’s attorneys have issued the following statement: Mr. Gomez was last in the United States in the summer of 2016. He never returned. Dr. Kurin filed for divorce in May of 2019.  In August of 2019 Dr. Kurin went to Peru to gather her belongings. This is the last time she saw or spoke with Mr. Gomez. The divorce was finalized in December of 2019.  Dr. Kurin’s family residence was used by consent of the parties for service purposes only.  Mr. Gomez was not there as he had not been in the U.S. since 2016.  Any suggestion that Dr. Kurin and Mr Gomez were in a continued relationship or that Mr. Gomez was present in the U.S. at Dr. Kurin’s family home in December of 2019 (or at any time in 2019) is false.  Dr. Kurin was not married when Mr. Balter wrote his blogs, nor was she in anyway Mr. Gomez’s partner. We have demanded that Mr. Balter retract his statements to the contrary but he refuses.  It is our opinion that Mr. Balter cyberbullies and uses #metoo as a way to gaslight people.  We view this story as a pointless invasion of Dr. Kurin’s privacy and yet more evidence of Mr. Balter’s overt malice against her.  We will pursue this litigation until Mr. Balter retracts each and every false statement he has made about Dr. Kurin and ceases bullying her, whether he does so by choice or Court Order.  Please do not respond to Dr. Kurin or our law firm here. Rather send us webmail at”

Now my comments on these questions and answers, based on my reporting:

1. Scher does not actually answer my questions about what Kurin told her colleagues about the timing of her divorce and why she reportedly said that she was already divorced when she returned to teaching in Fall 2019. He does confirm that the divorce was finalized last December, however. In the defamation complaint, Kurin tells the court that she filed for divorce "soon after" the IFR concluded its investigation of Gomez's assaults on female students and allegations by the students that Kurin tried to cover up these events. That investigation, which led to IFR severing its connections with Kurin, wrapped up in October 2018. Kurin filed for divorce on May 9, 2019, nearly seven months later. Whether seven months fits the definition of "soon after" could well be an issue in this litigation, but I will let it lie for now.

2. Scher maintains that Kurin's divorce attorney used the mailing address of her father in Falls Church, Virginia "for service purposes only" and that Gomez was not physically present there, indeed that he had not been in the United States since the summer of 2016. He does not explain why the divorce papers were sent to Falls Church rather than straight down to Peru or wherever else Gomez was at the time, since Kurin had told the divorce court that the couple separated in August  2018 (ie, right after the sexual assaults at the 2018 field school.)

Gomez was served with several documents pertaining to the divorce, and, the records show, accepted service each time of documents that were mailed to the Falls Church address. It is certainly possible that the documents were sent first to Falls Church and then that someone--Danielle Kurin, her father Richard, or her mother--sent them to Gomez in Peru. But in that case the service would have been carried out not by Kurin's divorce lawyer and his firm, as the records indicate, but by Kurin and/or her family. And what happened next? Did Gomez sign the documents and send them back to Falls Church, or did he send them directly back to Kurin's lawyer, or to the court?

There might be little issue here were it not for the following.

3. Scher vehemently denies that a relationship continued between Kurin and Gomez during 2019, and she denies it as well in the defamation complaint, signed under penalty of perjury. Scher states that Kurin went to Peru in August of last year, but only to gather her belongings, and that she has not seen Gomez nor spoken to him since.

The problem with that statement is that I have spoken with three sources, direct witnesses, who put Kurin in Andahuaylas on more than one occasion last year. Two of these sources observed Kurin not only living with Gomez in his family home in the city, but actually sleeping with him in his bedroom. The third source, a visitor who did not stay long, nevertheless observed them together. The first two sources fear retaliation from Kurin for talking to me, and thus I will not only not name them but also not specify when they were in Andahuaylas. The third source does not fear retaliation but nevertheless does not want to be publicly involved. (To make things clear, I have known since January that Kurin was staying in the Andahuaylas house last year despite telling colleagues that they were divorced.)

(On the issue of retaliation: Kurin may try to make guesses about who the sources are, although she would be likely to be wrong. However, any attempts she makes to retaliate against colleagues she thinks might be sources will be reported in this space immediately.)

If these witnesses are telling the truth, then obviously Kurin is not.

I've talked to many colleagues about Kurin's relationship with Gomez. Kurin married Gomez on February 9, 2016, many months after he sexually harassed students at the 2015 field school.  She defended him against those charges by calling the complainants "racist gringas" on Facebook and then retaliated against them. The marriage also took place on the eve of the Title IX proceedings against the couple, in which both were found to have committed misconduct. Kurin continued her marriage to Gomez in 2018, when she was on administrative leave for the earlier misconduct and when he sexually assaulted two students at her field school that year. Only in May 2019 did she finally file for divorce, and yet the evidence shows that this did not end the couple's relationship.

Kurin's colleagues say that the couple has a definite bond and the relationship is real. Nevertheless, Gomez's home in Andahuaylas, and other locations owned by his family, serve as key infrastructure for Kurin's archaeological work in the region. Gomez's family provides students at the field school with their meals, and perform other support services. Thus the relationship has also been key to Kurin's ability to perform the research on which she has built her career and hopes to get tenure from UCSB.

The matters discussed above will obviously play an important role in the lawsuit against me, in which I am accused of making false statements in my reporting, and, possibly, in Kurin's tenure process. I  will say nothing more about them now, but I expect to be back soon with more thoughts about the defamation suit and the important First Amendment issues it raises. You can also look for regular  updates about the case on my GoFundMe site.

Update: Reply to the above from Danielle Kurin's attorney, Dave Scher

(I have no comment of my own to make on this, other than that I have always been happy for Kurin to have input into my reporting, and that I make no "fortune" with this blog--I do my #MeToo reporting for free. As for the immigration process, my wife had to wait 19 months to get her green card, during which we were separated most of the time, thanks to Trump's immigration policies.)

“Dr. Kurin’s attorney’s have issued the following reply to my blog:
There is nothing new to Mr. Balter’s ongoing and relentless bullying assault against Dr. Kurin here, other than his apparent obsession (as illustrated in his 2006 book) with the voyeuristic (and illegal) spying of American tourists.  It is fascinating that Mr. Balter still sees Dr. Kurin as the harasser, not the anonymous gossipers violating Peruvian law by spying on Dr. Kurin in a private setting, and not Mr. Balter himself for needlessly writing about a private citizen’s private life.
As we have already stated, Dr. Kurin traveled to Peru in the Summer of 2019 and met with Mr. Gomez to collect belongings and complete certain paperwork.  It is therefore quite likely that witnesses observed Mr. Gomez and Dr. Kurin in the same place, even in the same “family home” and even in or near the same “bed”.  There is nothing salacious about this, despite Mr. Balter’s insinuation otherwise.
Had Mr. Balter done actual research, rather than at 3am blasting out the gossipy hearsay of American female college students overbroad (as is his want, and as has been the basis of almost all of his “reporting” about Dr. Kurin), he would have realized some additional and very important facts:
  1. Mr. Gomez is not some powerful or cosmopolitan Peruvian. Rather he is an indigenous, first-language Quechua speaker who has lived his whole life in one of the poorest regions in the Western Hemisphere. 
  1. Mr. Gomez has never been credibly accused or investigated for, and has never been convicted of, rape anywhere (the post by “Anonymous” that Mr. Balter has allowed to be posted on his blog containing the outrageous statement to the contrary is easily proved as false and severely damages Mr. Gomez – this defamation of Mr. Gomez is a crime under Peruvian law.  As Mr. Balter’s readers know, he is already under attack in Peru for making false statements about Mr. Castillo, which will likely lead to his indictment as an international criminal).
  1. Mr. Gomez and his entire family are extremely poor, and were routinely targeted and tortured by the Peruvian government, as well as by the Shining Path terrorist group. They describe Mr. Balter's defamatory attacks on them as another extrajudicial attempt to terrorize and intimidate them. Mr. Gomez and his family unfortunately do not have the financial means to defend themselves against frequent, frivolous, and racially--tinged attacks by privileged white Americans. 
  1. Mr. Gomez and his entire family - men, women and children, multiple generations - sleep all together in one modest adobe-and concrete abode– what Mr. Balter calls the “family home”.
  1. Mr. Gomez and his entire family sleep on the dirt and slate floors of the actual “family home” (a one room hut) bolstered by some threading to support them (the “bed”), threading made by the family.
  1. Mr. Balter doesn't seem to realize that the process of getting a Visa to travel to/live in the US as a foreign citizen is a complicated, years-long process. As a white man who can choose to live in Paris or the US on a whim, he obviously has no idea of what the immigration process entails, especially for ethnic minorities from the global south. To receive his K1 Visa, US immigration authorities did an extensive background check on Mr. Gomez, where they confirmed that he has never been accused, investigated or convicted of any misconduct of any kind, sexual or otherwise. That Mr. Balter thinks his investigative powers surpass those of the US Government is just laughable.

So when Dr. Kurin went to Peru in the summer of 2019, she did indeed visit Mr. Gomez to complete matters with him, stayed in his “family home” (with about a dozen other people all in the same room) and may have even been seen next to his “bed” (a slate floor with some threading). When traveling to remote and impoverished regions in Peru, that was simply Dr. Kurin’s only choice. That three American tourists secretly observed this over a year ago and now have reported it to Mr. Balter, suggesting some sort of improper sexual (or other) relationship is simply, in our opinion, disgusting. And that Mr. Balter would publish such a story is, in our opinion, despicable.
Notably, Mr. Balter admits in his own blog now that Dr. Kurin was divorced from Mr. Gomez in 2019, yet he still has refused to retract his statement, made in February of 2020, that Dr. Kurin was “married”.  His hunt to cover up this falsehood by suggesting that Dr. Kurin’s divorce is somehow a sham has fallen flat – even flatter than the paper thin pancake of unverified anonymously given hearsay that forms the basis of most of his blogs.
In our opinion, Mr. Balter does nothing more than take already-published stories and add unverifiable and often false and/or highly misleading and deceptive gossip.  He has done this not just to Dr. Kurin, but to numerous other unsuspecting members of the educational community that has, in large part, shunned him. He seems to most relish attacking young vulnerable women and indigenous minorities.
At this point Mr. Balter’s writings read more like a rag magazine on the discount rack in a supermarket – everyone knows it’s not real but we enjoy reading it anyway.  So as you read Mr. Balter’s (mostly tall) tales, please keep in mind that they are nothing more, in our opinion, than sadistic voyeurism showing its true colors.
It is our opinion that Mr. Balter’s connection with the truth is weak, and that he is really nothing more than a harassing cyberbully who lives in a virtual world of gaslighting and unprovable chatter.  If you’ve been a follower of Mr. Balter, it may be time to consider that, at least in our opinion, he is just using you and #metoo to establish, for yet another white male, unjustified fame and fortune. 
If you have been a victim of Mr. Balter’s cyberbullying, harassment, and/or retaliation, please contact us via our website:  We would love to hear from you and I will personally respond to you.”

Update July 23: The duration of Kurin's relationship with Gomez

For the reasons spelled out above, and in the defamation complaint filed against me by Danielle Kurin, the circumstances of her relationship with her ex-husband, Enmanuel Gomez Choque, have unfortunately become relevant to the lawsuit and to determining the truth. I say "unfortunately" because despite Kurin's false suggestions in the complaint that I have some kind of abnormal interest in people's sex lives, Kurin's defense of Gomez in the face of sexual misconduct allegations is very much at issue here. In the complaint filed with the federal court, Kurin refers to a "brief" marriage to Gomez between 2016-2019. However, in double checking with sources who have known the couple for a long time, the relationship (including living together when Kurin is in Peru) began as early as 2009.

Update July 23: Litigation Hold Notice

An important argument that I will be making in my defense of Kurin's defamation suit against me is that my reporting about her was not only accurate and well-sourced, but that it was in the public interest. In other words, my motivations for writing about Kurin were not based on malice or any other kind of ill will, especially because I had never heard of Danielle Kurin until I was approached by a researcher concerned that she was returning to teaching and contact with students (although I have been an archaeology writer for at least 25 years, I do not normally cover the period  Kurin works in.) This colleague, and many others I have talked to since, believe, as one academic put it to me, "Danielle Kurin is a danger to students." Again, this is the view of others who know her, and did not originate with me, even though I have a First Amendment right to have and express an opinion on the matter (as well as on whether she is suitable for tenure at UC Santa Barbara.)

Because I believe that this is fundamentally a First Amendment case and not a real defamation case (I have never defamed her, which would require that my assertions be knowingly false), I intend to make the details of the case as public as legally allowed. All documents filed with the court are public, of course, unless the judge decides to seal some of them; normally routine filings such as the complaint, my answer to it, and various motions would be public.

In that spirit, I am including below the Litigation Hold Notice that I have sent to Dave Scher, Kurin's attorney. This notice, which requires any evidence that could be relevant to the lawsuit to be preserved, was included with the complaint that Scher sent to me, and obligates me to preserve and retain any evidence I have. Below is the Litigation Hold Notice I have sent to Scher today. It might give readers of this blog an idea of what kinds of issues may come up in legal discovery as the litigation proceeds.

Dear Mr. Scher,

This email serves as written notice to you to instruct your client, Danielle Kurin, to preserve all evidence that may be relevant to this dispute, in all forms (including but not limited to written, electronic, text messages, social media messages, etc.)

Documents that your client must preserve and retain include, but are not limited to, those that mention or discuss any of the following subjects:

1. All communications, including but not limited to written letters, telegrams, emails, texts, social media private messages (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.) between Danielle Kurin and Diogenes Enmanuel Gomez Choque between August 1, 2018 and the present. In addition, your client must preserve and retain any such future communications between herself and Mr. Gomez that occur for the duration of this litigation.

2. All communications, as described above, between your client and her father, Richard Kurin, between January 1, 2015 and the present. I realize that you might consider communications pertaining to the obtaining of legal counsel to be privileged; I ask that your client nevertheless retain those pending resolution of any disagreements about their discoverability.

3. All communications between your client, as described above, and any and all staff, officials, board members, or anyone else associated with the Institute for Field Research, including but not limited to Ran Boytner, Willeke Wendrich, Jason de Leon, Julie Stein, and Fred Limp. This instruction is not limited as to time, and includes any such communications in the future, whether or not you consider some of them to be privileged.

4. In addition, I would like your client to preserve and retain all communications, as described above, with any of the individuals named in No. 3 whether or not those communications involve the IFR, at any time in the past and into the future.

5. All communications, as described above, with colleagues in the University of California, Santa Barbara anthropology department, or with UCSB deans or other officials, that mention Diogenes Enmanuel Gomez Choque or the Title IX proceedings that Dr. Kurin and Mr. Gomez were subject to during the course of 2016, or any other matters that discuss the possibility of misconduct by either Dr. Kurin or Mr. Gomez. If there are any doubts as to whether certain communications fit this definition, I ask that they be retained nevertheless.

6. All communications, as described above, with anyone anywhere that mention the administrative leave Dr. Kurin was placed on beginning in spring 2016, whether or not you consider any of these communications to be privileged.

7. If there are any doubts or questions about whether or not certain documents or communications are relevant to this dispute, you must have your client retain them pending resolution of any such issues.

Electronically Stored Information (ESI): Your client must take every reasonable step to preserve relevant ESI throughout the pendency of this litigation and any appeals, as long as this process might last. Your client must suspend the deletion, overwriting, or any other possible destruction of relevant electronic documents and data, including automatic data destruction protocols, beginning immediately.

For any questions about what kinds of documents and ESI must be retained, I refer you to your letter to me of June 16, 2020 outlining my own obligations under the Litigation Hold Notice.

I reserve the right to specify additional materials to be preserved and retained as this litigation proceeds.

With thanks for your cooperation.

Best regards,

Michael Balter

Continued updates, July 23.

In her lengthy attack on me above, Danielle Kurin makes a brief reference to Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, a powerful Peruvian archaeologist who has also threatened me with legal action for writing about accusations against him. For anyone who does not know what that is all about, you can find the latest post and back-linking here. In the complaint in the defamation suit, Kurin also comes to the defense of several sexual predators (Brian Richmond, David Yesner, Ran Boytner, etc.) who have lost their positions (or in Yesner's case, denied emeritus status) as a result of their misconduct. In the complaint, Kurin tries to portray these confirmed abusers as my victims.

Who are the "cyberbullies"?

As one of my Twitter followers put it, this case is getting "weirder and weirder." I have to agree. I asked Kurin to respond to the allegations against her I have reported, and via her attorney, Dave Scher, she did so. I agreed to post whatever she said uncut and unedited, and you can see the result above. I am obviously not a defamation attorney, but neither is Scher (he often represents whistleblowers, which is good), and I wonder if Kurin's comments--which are blatant lies, very scurrilous, and inflammatory--might not meet the definition of defamation. Fortunately for her and her lawyer, journalists are normally loathe to file defamation suits against anyone, let alone the subjects of their reporting.

Nevertheless, Scher has developed a habit of posting things on Twitter about the case and then very quickly deleting them. I'm not sure what his motivation is, but he must realize that I have a lot of followers who quickly screenshot anything they think might disappear. Thus we have this from yesterday:

Is there any way to interpret this other than yet another attempt to intimidate me, dare I say to bully me, into deleting and renouncing all my reporting about Kurin, which is what they have demanded? That's the relief they seek, in addition to $18 million in damages. But it's as if they want to get the relief they seek simply by filing a defamation suit, without going through the long and difficult process of litigating the issues and having a jury (they have demanded a jury trial) decide whether I defamed Kurin or not. Until that day comes (I am confident that it will never come), I am an equal party in this lawsuit, not someone to be bullied as they have accused me of doing not just to Kurin but to others.

In any case it should be clear by now that they will not win the lawsuit that way. They will have to fight fair and square and try to make their case in court. In my view, while Kurin may have defamed me, I have not defamed her--because everything I have published about her is based on evidence, or is opinion that I am entitled to express under the First Amendment.

I don't want anyone to get the idea I think this is fun. It is miserable, dirty, depressing, and hard work, for both Kurin and for me. But Kurin and her attorney know how to put an end to it, and I hope they will soon.

Update: Did Kurin's marijuana smoking and isolation from the students of her field schools contribute to her husband's sexual abuse of students?

Kurin accuses me of "actual malice" in my reporting against her, and wanting to destroy her career. If I were found to have falsely reported about her, it would be necessary to find me at least to have engaged in reckless disregard of the truth for her to win the case. Simple mistakes or inadvertent errors are not good enough. Even better, if a plaintiff in a defamation suit can show that the defendant showed actual malice--in essence, that they were really out to get them--a defamation suit could be won.

In reality, I have withheld some of the most serious accusations against Kurin, and I must admit I do not know why. Perhaps a simple feeling of charity and sympathy for someone I believe to harbor serious character flaws, or just not wanting to be seen to be driving the knife in--after all, what I have called her "enabling" (a word she vehemently rejects) of Gomez's sexual abuse would seem to be bad enough.

But I think under the current circumstances I will have to stop being so charitable. Here are two quotes from students, the first from a student at her 2017 field school, which I have never discussed before, and the second from a different student at her 2018 field school, where Gomez sexually assaulted and traumatized a student.

2017: "The 2017 IFR field school in Andahuaylas was a bit of a mess. Danielle had her sister there (who is a lawyer) to keep her in check. Danielle hid away in her room most of the time smoking weed, which the students could smell. She also barely ever showered, which the students also noticed. 
Since she was not involved in running her own field school, the staff members were disorganized and she turned them against each other by providing conflicting information on how excavation should be run. Students were also frustrated by this since it made excavations less enjoyable."

2018: "Some of [the students] were offered TA positions, research promises and even marijuana. During the Wari project, students were consuming marijuana that Danielle had provided to them to appease them, because they were pissed that the digging was cut to half the time agreed. She put students at risk in a foreign country where its recreational use is still illegal." [boldface added]

The 2018 student might be wrong that recreational use of small amounts of marijuana is illegal in Peru, although I have not yet researched it extensively. The real question, however, is whether it was responsible for Kurin to use it and offer it to students, if these testimonies are correct. Personally I am in favor of legalizing marijuana, but that is not the issue here.

As before, I would invite Danielle Kurin to come onto this page and respond to these very serious assertions. (Update 1:02 PM: I have heard from Dave Scher that he and his client decline to comment on these latest details.)

A letter to Danielle from a former, and hopefully future, friend.

The follow Anonymous comment was posted below, but I am going to move it up here as well because it is passionate, full of hopes for Danielle and her future, but eloquently urges her to make a real break with her past misconduct and behavior that has been very hurtful to others. I hope she will take this message to heart.

"To Danielle,
It is not too late to turn your life around. I was shocked and disappointed when I first heard about the things you did, and this was before Balter’s reporting. I was shocked because over the years, I thought I saw more good in you than bad. You were (are?) humorous, passionate, and hard-working. You’ve made major mistakes and have doubled down on them in the past years. All you need to do is to own up to your mistakes, publicly apologize to everyone personally and publicly, make reparations to them, and drop this lawsuit that you cannot win. You might think that doubling down, as you had done over the past decade, is the only way to save your reputation and career. This is not true. I think you underestimate the graciousness of others. You can still have a future in your life-long passion (maybe in the museum world?) if you make amends publicly from a place of humility. I know you must be going through lots of terrible emotions right now; the latest update about your 2017 and 2018 activities shows the emotional toll the consequences that your own actions have taken on you. But also know that what you are currently feeling is probably worse than what you put many people through. Please try to think about that. Please let your better angels conquer your ego and pride, and see the damage you’ve done and make amends. It’s not too late to start anew.
A former, and hopefully future, friend"

A correction to my above comment. "But also know that what you are currently feeling is probably worse than what you put many people through." should read "But also know that what you are currently feeling is similar to the rage and anguish those you have bullied and retaliated against have felt and are still feeling, and they probably feel it worse."

Update July 24: Have Kurin's attempts to retaliate against witnesses already begun?

Despite Kurin's attacks on the sources for my reporting, in her words above, as either liars or mistaken, she has a very long reputation for retaliating or attempting to retaliate against witnesses and survivors of her ex-husband's abuses. (She was found to have done that in a 2016 Title IX that is a key document of proof in this case.) I am already getting indications that she is actively hunting for the sources of my updated reporting. To put it simply, Kurin just does not seem to be able to help herself, and this is why so many students and faculty think she is, as one of them put it to me, "a danger to students."

Since any of my sources could potentially be witnesses in this lawsuit, it appears that Kurin is attempting to intimidate witnesses and tamper with their potential testimony.

Nevertheless, her attorney, Dave Scher, has publicly pledged that he and his client will not go after my sources, in a June 23 Tweet since deleted but seen by many. They should be held to that publicly, and I intend to hold them to that in this litigation.

Update 9:30 am: An interchange with Danielle Kurin's attorney Dave Scher.

I wrote to Mr. Scher this morning asking him to warn his client about intimidation of witnesses. Here is his reply and my response to that. The good news is that he has reiterated his pledge not to go after my sources, and of course this representation will bind him during this lawsuit.

Mr. Balter,

The statement that my client “has begun to try to figure out who the sources of [your] reporting are” is false.  If you make that statement publicly, it will be a knowingly false statement that could severely injure Dr. Kurin, thus further defaming her.  Should you state directly or indirectly or insinuate in any way that Dr. Kurin is intimidating or trying to intimidate witness (again – because you have already falsely done this at least twice) you are on notice that such statements are false and defamatory and in our view it would violate your ethics as a journalist to publish them.

As we have stated before, we are not now nor will we ever seek the identity of your “witnesses”. First, we respect the right of witnesses to come forward and say whatever they want anonymously.  Second, in our view, everything these witnesses have said or have to say is inadmissible in Court anyway. If you have suggested or in the future do suggest to anyone otherwise in order to engender support, you would be lying to people.

Also as previously stated, the defamation part of our case is based on your statements (not those of witnesses) - objectively provably false statements.  As a simple example, as I have already stated many times, Dr. Kurin was not married in February, 2020, when you published a blog stating that she was. In a recent blog you admitted that she was divorced in 2019.  Yet, you still, to this day, have not issued a retraction.  This statement is a clear example of defamation: 1) the statement that Dr. Kurin is married is false, 2) it is easily proved as false, 3) you know it is false, 3) you will not retract it (instead you made scandalously yet more false allegations about her divorce process), and 4) she is injured by this association of marriage, as you know.  We believe a Court will Order you to issue a retraction and/or remove this false statement and further award damages associated with that injury.  This is but one of many examples of objectively provably false statements you have knowingly, and with continued malice, have made and continue to make about Dr. Kurin.  As you can see from this example, we do not need any of your witnesses to establish our case – we will rely entirely your own knowingly false, injurious and defamatory statements.

You have threatened to file a motion. For the record, we oppose the motion and do not consent.  Should you file such a motion, we will oppose it vigorously, and we will further asks for sanctions and attorneys’ fees and costs, because a motion based entirely on inadmissible anonymous hearsay is de jure frivolous.

Please also stop emailing me about on and off the record.  I am not your attorney and cannot advise you how to handle our communications. I do recommend you consult an attorney on this topic.


Dave Scher, Partner
Hoyer Law Group

My response:

Mr. Scher,

I will try to be brief.

I don't know how long you have known your client, but in some ways I know her better than you do. That's because over the past months I have talked with dozens of individuals, mostly within the archaeology community that Dr. Kurin is part of, who have known her since she was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University.

The almost universal judgement of those colleagues, former and present, is that Dr. Kurin is a chronic bully who often has a very tenuous relationship with the truth. Her bullying has often involved invoking the power of her father, Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian Institution, and threatening that he will retaliate against them within the scientific community.

I have tried to point out to  you repeatedly that your client has not told you the truth about many issues that are relevant to this litigation. To put it simply, she has led you up the garden path. By doing so, she has made you the agent of her bullying and attempts at retaliation. This litigation, which involves an attempt to suppress the First Amendment rights of a reporter who is writing about her in the public interest, is in effect Exhibit A.

I suggest that you re-read the blog posts from February and March that are at the center of the litigation. While you and your client have quibbled over a few words here and there, both of you have completely ignored the testimonies of victims of sexual harassment and assault. In all these years, your client has done absolutely nothing to acknowledge their pain, apologize to them for the abuse they suffered at her field schools, or even recognize them as real people. Instead they are characterized as "racist gringas" or "American tourists" in the most disdainful and callous way. [boldface added]

Finally, as a journalist of 42 years' standing, I know very well the difference between on and off the record. As I told you, I consider all of our communications to be on the record unless we agree otherwise. Nevertheless,  I offered to retroactively put one of  your statements to me off the record because I was not sure if you intended it to be public and wanted to give you a fair chance to decide that on your own. I believe you understand that very well and so your remarks on that issue are disingenuous.

On that basis, this entire exchange is on the record and thus I am free to make it public.


Michael Balter

Update July 29, 2020: Some insights into Kurin's association with a sexual predator, and her penchant for bullying.

Over the many months that I have been reporting on Danielle Kurin and her former husband, Enmanuel Gomez Choque, I have talked to dozens of people who have known her over the years, going back to her graduate student days at Vanderbilt University. She is apparently a very contradictory character, charismatic and capable of being "charming, funny, and friendly," as one colleague put it, adding that "I can see why people are easily bamboozled by her."

One archaeologist who has known Kurin for many years recounts spending some time with her in Peru, a number of years ago. This person, whom I will call Archaeologist A, recalls two "warning signs" of the behavior that would later lead to two misconduct investigations involving her, the 2016 Title IX against her and Gomez and the 2018 investigation of sexual assaults at her field school in Peru by the Institute for Field Research.

"We hung out a few times in Ayacucho, where she and Enmanuel were working from. She complained...about his sexual jokes to her. For example, during survey they were bitten by all kinds of insects. He asked her if she could put anti-itch/bit cream on his private parts. I was baffled when she later married him."

Archaeologist A recalls another episode that provided insights into Kurin's penchant for bullying others (I have reported that she has often invoked the name of her father, a powerful official at the Smithsonian Institution, when threatening retaliation against the careers of others.

"She took me and one of her students out on an excursion to a nearby...archaeological site. The entrance fee was less than $3.00. Instead of buying a ticket, she told us to jump the low fence. A guardian of the site [an indigenous Peruvian] approached us soon after and asked us to pay for our entrance tickets. Danielle's comportment changed dramatically. She started to intimidate the guardian by saying how dare he, and if he knows who she is? She started name dropping well known Peruvian archaeologists. I felt really embarrassed and handed the guardian my [fee], which finally made Danielle relent."

Archaeologist A to a colleague, early last year