Peruvian archaeologist and former culture minister Castillo, ejected from U.S. National Academy of Sciences for sexual harassment, sues Academy and its president for millions of dollars [Updated June 4, 2023: Judge grants defendants's motion for dismissal]

On October 12, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, an archaeologist at Peru's Pontifical Catholic University (PUCP) in Lima, Peru, sued the National Academy of Sciences and its president, Marcia McNutt, for $5 million in damages. Castillo, who is also a former Peruvian minister of culture, accuses the NAS and McNutt of defaming him when it expelled him from the Academy in October of last year after an internal investigation confirmed previous allegations of sexual harassment.

The lawsuit came in the wake of a defamation judgment he obtained in a Peruvian court last May against Marcela Poirier, an anthropologist he accuses of being involved in his expulsion from NAS. Just yesterday, October 20, Marcela and her attorney made their case in front of an appeals court for the judgment to be overturned. Further proceedings are scheduled in two or three weeks before the appeals court makes its decision.

Marcela has received a great deal of international support, as I reported earlier this year (for all of my reporting on Castillo and the allegations against him, please see the bottom of this post.) On October 17, for example, the United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner issued a statement expressing the concern of UN experts that the Castillo case represented criminalization of women activists and an attempt to silence victims of sexual harassment. As the experts noted:

“If the court’s decision stands, it could silence other victims and survivors of sexual violence and prevent them from speaking out against their aggressors,” they said. "Defending against a defamation claim can be costly and stressful, leading to potential re-victimisation and mental trauma.”

In his Complaint against NAS and McNutt (see link for pdf), Castillo, who is represented by attorney Milton C. Johns of Fairfax, Virginia (who has no discernible defamation law experience), accuses both the Academy and McNutt of issuing press releases and other statements about his expulsion. However, no press releases of this kind are attached as exhibits--probably for the simple reason that, as far as I am aware, no such press releases were ever issued. Rather, the NAS press office responded to inquiries from reporters, including me, to confirm what was already clear on the membership page: That Castillo was no longer a member.

In another remarkable faux pas in the very sloppily compiled Complaint, Castillo insists that he is not a public figure in the United States, thus supposedly lowering the standard of proof for him to win a defamation case (public figures must show "actual malice" to win such cases.) (Sect. 30.) But in Sect. 2 of the Complaint, Castillo claims to be a "prominent and world-renowned scientist..."

Which is it? (Note that Science has done two stories about Castillo, and I have done many myself.)

I am sure that the NAS's attorneys will be able to make a good case for quick dismissal of the lawsuit. As the journalist who originally reported the allegations--based on direct testimony from victims and other witnesses, and not rumors or second hand reports--I am very well aware how strong the evidence against Castillo actually is. And, although U.S. Court districts have so far disagreed on whether so-called anti-SLAPP legislation against frivolous lawsuits designed to silence people apply in federal court, DC has a strong law in this regard, which could be decisive in this case--since Castillo is claiming the supposed defamation took place in the District of Columbia.

As in his attacks on Marcela Poirier, this lawsuit is another in a long series of actions by an accused sexual harasser (the allegations were found by the sexual harassment commision of his own university to be highly credible) to viciously retaliate against his victims and those who support them in the U.S. and Peru.

And while he has not sued me yet, either in Peru or the U.S., Castillo can be assured that I would defend any such lawsuit with the same determination as in the Danielle Kurin case (a former archaeology prof at University of California, Santa Barbara who was forced to resign in disgrace.) Indeed, I have reason to believe that Kurin has actually helped Castillo in his retaliatory behavior, based on questions I was asked when I testified in Marcela's trial.

I assume, or at least I hope, that such a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the National Academy of Sciences and its president (who, full disclosure, is a former editor of Science, where I worked for 25 years) will garner the outrage, publicity, and quick dismissal it so richly deserves.

Luis Jaime Castillo Butters

Marcia McNutt/ Christopher Michel/ Wikimedia Commons


The evidence against Luis Jaime Castillo Butters:

Andean archaeology has a #MeToo problem

The victims of...Castillo...speak out

A case study in lying [by Castillo's friends and supporters]

Did [Castillo]... try to shake down Yale for an honorary PhD?

Sexual harassment commission finds allegations... to be highly credible

Twice confirmed sexual harasser Luis Jaime Castillo Butters...Uses his power to... retaliate

Support builds for Marcela Poirier [victim of retaliation by Castillo]

Peruvian anthropologist Marcela Poirier is taking a hit for survivors...

Update Oct 21: Science weighs in with its story on the lawsuit.

Update Nov 10: NAS and McNutt move for dismissal of the case

On November 3, the Defendants in the case filed a motion to dismiss Castillo's lawsuit on the grounds that he had failed "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." The motion was accompanied by a Memorandum of Points and Authorities which lays out these grounds in detail, or rather, discusses the complete lack of detail about just how NAS and Marcia McNutt had allegedly defamed him. For example, Castillo had claimed that the NAS had put out a press release and other press statements about his ejection from the Academy, but failed to provide these as exhibits in his original Complaint. There is a simple reason for this: No such press releases or press statements were ever issued.

I will be monitoring the case closely to see how the judge handles this motion; I hope other reporters will do so as well. It's not every day that the U.S.'s top scientific body gets sued for defamation.

Update Nov 19: Castillo has now filed his opposition to the motion for dismissal discussed above. It features a number of false statements, but I will hold off commenting until the judge makes her decision.

Update Dec 6: Last night attorneys for NAS and Marcia McNutt filed additional documents in support of their motion for dismissal for failure by Castillo to state a valid claim. The documents can be found here and here.

Update June 4, 2023: Judge grants defendants's motion for dismissal, without prejudice. That means Castillo can refile the case IF and ONLY IF he can overcome the deficiencies in his first Complaint. I think that is unlikely.


Post a Comment


Anonymous said…
Counsel for the plaintiff:
Anonymous said…
Who is bankrolling his lawsuit? His official PUCP salary is quite low, probably no more than 45k USD per year. The thousands of dollars he got through corrupt dealings over the years have probably dried up by now. Urton? Stanish? Larry Coben? Kurin?
Anonymous said…
So Castillo thinks he already won the lawsuit? And recovered his NAS membership? As far as I understand the trial continues. But he presents himself as a member of the NAS in academic conferences.

Anonymous said…
Following that link he introduces himself as:
"Jaime Castillo Butter
Doctor en
Antropologia por la Univ. de California, Los Angeles.
Miembro Extranjero de la National Academy of Sciences (NAS)..."

Does NAS know he is using their name, while both parties are in the midst of a trial??
Michael Balter said…
Thanks for the two previous comments re Castillo's apparent misrepresentation of himself as still a NAS member. The organization has been made aware of this. It is a blatant lie, as we all know.
Anonymous said…
According to the NAS webpage his membership has not being reinstated.
He is lying and there's proof of it.
Michael Balter said…
Castillo is NOT a member of NAS. The Webpage is accurate and current.
Anonymous said…
Castillo is grasping at straws: “1 Until shortly before Defendants’ filed their motion, these press releases were available to the public on the NAS website. They are no longer available, and Plaintiff has no knowledge of when they were subsequently removed” How shameless. He basically tells on himself that he insists he was kicked out due to sexual harassment allegations when the NAS never specified which allegations and investigations of his behavior led to his being kicked out. If he is so confident these press releases existed, wouldn’t he have printed or screenshotted them in preparation for his filing? Simple; they never existed.
Anonymous said…
The cynicism of Luis Jaime Castillo knows no limit. Yesterday, he published an opinion piece in a left-wing Peruvian newspaper – La Republica – trying to make us believe that he is the ultimate defender of Peruvian antiquities (
In reality, the main purpose of the article is to direct an attack against a US female scholar, who is doing great work on Moche archaeology, but outside the power network that Castillo always sought to dominate. In other words, with her fine work, she is overturning the following mandate that Castillo always tried to impose on Andean archaeologists: “if you want to do archaeology in Peru, it has to be with my consent and on my terms”.
In this article, two of Castillo’s arguments are especially absurd. First, he accuses the US scholar of carrying out a “colonialist archaeology”. I know Castillo well and can testify that, during the years he played a leading role in the cooperation efforts established between US(+Canada) and Peruvian North Coast archaeologists (roughly 1998 – 2015), I never heard him mention or care about any “colonial archaeology”. During that time, Castillo himself published many articles in English, never bothering to translate them into Spanish.
Second, in the article, Castillo accuses the US scholar of hiding information from Peruvian researchers, by allowing “the few artifacts she found in her excavations to be kept forever in boxes that will be stored away in a regional museum, where they will be forgotten”. Here Castillo displays an exacerbated sense of cynicism. Some may not know this, but during the time that Castillo was Vice Minister of Culture (August 2013 to May 2015), he promoted and approved a norm that can be translated as “Procedures for Archaeological Investigations in Peru” (the infamous RIA 2014). Among other aberrations, designed to favor Castillo’s own personal interests, this official document included Article 76, which allowed the directors of archaeological research projects to re-bury excavated materials in order to “ensure their conservation and proper storage” (yes, you read it well, the norm literally says: “proper storage”). This reburial was allowed to be carried out without mediating the need to conduct any kind of analysis on these materials. Evidently, Castillo planned this measure to get rid of the +50,000 ceramic fragments that the San Jose de Moro Project produced every year, and that were seen by him as a nuisance. Likewise, the reburial initiative helped him overcome one of his worst fears. It prevented any serious researcher from gaining access to the rich cultural material of San Jose de Moro and refute, after a meticulous analysis, the absurd theories that Castillo has been issuing about this important archaeological site.
In conclusion, for those of us who can read between the lines, the article reveals a sad reality. Far from being the ultimate defender of Peruvian antiquities, Castillo may be the individual who has done the most damage to local archaeology.
Michael Balter said…
Thanks to the last commenter. The link to Castillo's article does not seem to work, at least not for me. Could you check it and repost if possible? Thanks.