Sarah Warren and her family inked a $1.5 million settlement with the University of Southern California in 2018
The University of Southern California ordered Sarah Warren and her family to turn over their devices and have them wiped clean of anything showing an ex-medical school dean doing drugs as part of an ‘unseemly’ $1.5 million settlement.
The family had threatened to sue the college over Carmen Puliafito’s relationship with Warren, who met the scholar as a prostitute in 2015.
Warren was part of a ‘circle of other young addicts and criminals’ that Puliafito did drugs with, sometimes even on campus, according to photos shared in a bombshell Los Angeles Times report from 2017.
Puliafito resigned from his $1.1-million-a-year job in March 2016 after Warren overdosed in a hotel room with him in Pasadena three weeks earlier. At the time, he told police she was a family friend.
The ex-dean later avoided criminal charges for allegedly giving Warren’s minor brother Charles drugs due to lack of evidence.
The $1.5 million settlement was finalized in January or February 2018, but the extraordinarily strict terms of the agreement could be in violation of California law, which makes it a misdemeanor to destroy or conceal material to prevent it from being used ‘in evidence upon a trial, inquiry, or investigation, authorized by law.’
It’s unknown if USC kept copies of the deleted material, but if it didn’t, it could risk inviting more legal scrutiny, LA Times reporter Paul Pringle revealed Thursday.
USC declined to answer questions from DailyMail.com.
The university’s current president Carol Fold declined to comment, with a spokeswoman telling the LA Times that the events happened ‘years’ before she got there. The college’s attorney at the time also declined to speak to the newspaper.
The settlement prevented the family from speaking about it. Former LA County prosecutor Alan Jackson called the USC settlement ‘unseemly.’
‘You’re basically taking the evidence away from the victims,’ Jackson said.
An attorney for current USC President C.L. Max Nikias told the newspaper that Nikias knew nothing about the deletions.
‘He has not seen USC’s settlement agreement with the Warren family nor does he have any knowledge regarding its specific contents,’ the attorney, Stacy Harrison, said.
Carmen A. Puliafito (seen in 2014) resigned from his $1.1-million-a-year job in March 2016 after Sarah Warren overdosed in a hotel room with him in Pasadena three weeks earlier
USC, a top-ranked school in Los Angeles, California, could be held liable for destruction of evidence after ordering Warren and her family to delete all photos, videos and texts of Puliafito
Nikias resigned in 2018 after criticism that school administrators ignored decades of complaints against campus gynecologist George Tyndall, who was then the focus of some two dozen lawsuits and a police investigation into sexual assault allegations involving at least 50 women.
The lawsuits allege Tyndall routinely made crude comments, took inappropriate photographs and forced plaintiffs to strip naked and groped them under the guise of medical treatment.
Last year, state investigators closed an inquiry into whether Puliafito supplied Dora Yoder with the meth that killed her newborn, which was passed on to her baby through her breast milk.
The La Times had previously reviewed photos of Puliafito and Yoder with drugs and paraphernalia in the room, but Puliafito denied giving the drugs to her.
As part of the settlement, Warren, her brother and her parents took their phones, computers and hard drives to a tech shop to have them wiped clean of photos and videos of Puliafito, some of which also showed him in sexual situations.
They also deleted emails, text messages and letters, according to two sources with knowledge of the agreement who spoke to the LA Times.
Puliafito grew up in Buffalo, New York and went to Harvard Medical School. The ophthalmologist was appointed dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine in December 2007, according to a press release from the university at the time. He was a key fundraiser for the university, bringing in more than $1 billion in donations, by his estimation.
Years later, he would bring his younger friends to campus to party in his office.
‘He would say, “They love me around here. The medical students think I am God,”‘ Warren told the LA Times in 2017.
The Medical Board of California suspended Puliafito’s medical license in August 2018.
Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg called it ‘somewhat tricky territory’ to destroy the images of him if the medical board wasn’t done with its investigation.
‘A red flag pops up,’ Weisberg said. ‘You’d have to prove that a reasonable person would have been legitimately convinced that the medical board had everything.’
The years-old scandal stained USC’s reputation and ended Puliafito’s career.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Burnley declined to charge the former college official for allegedly supplying Warren’s younger brother with drugs, writing that ‘the current state of the case does not establish sufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.’
Burnley declined to speak to the LA Times about the latest revelations.