Hazing suit attorney: Michael Qubein deleted victim’s messages
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In the hours after the death of a fellow High Point University student, Michael Qubein deleted text messages from the victim’s phone, his attorney stated in court papers filed this week.
Qubein did so to spare Robert Eugene Tipton Jr. and his family potential embarrassment and distress, according to Asheville attorney John Spainhour in his response to a wrongful-death lawsuit against HPU, Qubein and others filed by Tipton’s mother, Deborah Tipton.
She alleged in her lawsuit that Qubein deleted the messages to cover up her son’s death.
“It is admitted that (Qubein) found Tipton’s cell phone in Marshall Jefferson’s apartment on March 26, 2012 after the apartment had been cleared by authorities,” the answer to the suit, filed Monday, states. “Qubein placed the cell phone in Tipton’s backpack that contained Tipton’s other personal belongings, as Tipton’s backpack had been left in someone else’s motor vehicle. It is admitted that Qubein deleted text messages that Qubein believed would have embarrassed Tipton and caused pain and emotional distress to Tipton’s parents and family members. It is denied that Qubein assaulted or battered Tipton at any time. It is denied that Qubein caused Tipton’s death in any manner. It is denied that there was any ‘horrific conduct’ by Qubein or any effort to ‘cover up’ such ‘horrific conduct.’”
Qubein, son of HPU President Nido Qubein, and the other defendants in the case are asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. They cite a state medical examiner’s finding that Tipton died from an overdose of prescription drugs.
“Of course, we understand that the mother is upset. Michael Qubein is deeply saddened by the loss of a friend, but he had nothing to do with it,” said Spainhour.
Tipton, a 22-year-old HPU junior, was pledging Delta Sigma Phi, which Qubein was pledge educator for at the time. Deborah Tipton filed suit in March, alleging that her son died as a result of being “violently assaulted and battered” in a fraternity hazing incident.
In addition to Qubein and HPU, the other defendants in the case — HPU security director Jeff Karpovich, former student Marshall Jefferson and Delta Sigma Phi, Inc. — have denied the suit’s allegations.