Teen who made weaponized drone sues CCSU over expulsion

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NEW BRITAIN -- A teen who gained national attention last year after a video of his armed drone went viral is suing the university that expelled him.

Last July, Austin Haughwout, 19, of Clinton, posted a video on his YouTube page depicting a drone he had armed with a "homemade multirotor with a semiautomatic handgun mounted on it." It went viral, attracting more than 3.5 million views.

About a month after the video was initially posted, Haughwout's school--Central Connecticut State University--and one of his professors in the engineering department commented on the invention, saying the professor strongly discouraged  Haughwout from creating the weaponized drone. However, Haughwout's father said his son had created the drone with his professor.

"The purpose for making these quadcopters was simply to use basic engineering principles which I have learned," said Haughwout. "And the reason for posting them online was to create discussion."

While Clinton Police said that Haughwout hadn't broken any laws, the FAA did investigate. The video also spurred recent talks at the state Capitol about regulating the weaponization of drones, though there are no current laws prohibiting such an activity.

Monday, Haughwout announced he is suing CCSU. He says they expelled him because of the video without offering him due process, and in violation of his constitutional rights and the school's own rules. He says he was expelled for "threatening" a student, but that the school provided no evidence to support the claim. Haughwout claims the state's attorney decided not to prosecute for lack of evidence.

When asked for a comment on the lawsuit, Janice Palmer, the CCSU public affairs officer, said in a statement to FOX 61, "We don’t have a statement due to it being a pending legal matter."

"There's nothing that he built that is illegal," said Haughwout's attorney Jon Schoenhorn. "There's debate now about whether to make it illegal, but it's important to emphasize it was perfectly lawful."

The lawsuit claims that on August 4, 2014, a professor in the CCSU Department of Engineering sent a letter to the school's provost saying that Houghwout's creation of the drone, while not illegal, represented "immoral and extremely dangerous" activity on the part of Haughwout, and speculated that Haughwout may have enlisted other students or used school facilities to build it.

On September 22, a detective in the CCSU Police Department wrote up an incident report accusing Haughwout of threatening a student, who said Haughwout had said he was going to "shoot up" the school. However, the detective wouldn't tell Haughtwout when or where the threat was allegedly made.

The detective then submitted an arrest warrant to the New Britain Superior Court seeking to charge Haughwout with threatening. However, the court denied the warrant, saying there was no probable cause.

On October 1, Haughwout was officially suspended. At a disciplinary hearing the school didn't call any witnesses to testify against Haughwout or provide any other evidence, the lawsuit claims.

On October 19 Haughwout was expelled. He appealed the expulsion, but the appeal was denied on October 30, meaning he was permanently expelled.

"CCSU decided that this is not someone we want here," said Schoenhorn, who is representing Haughwout. "It was a stupid move, but more importantly, we believe it was an unconstitutional move."

Haughwout has appeared in the news several other times in the past year and a half. On June 9, 2014, he was assaulted by a woman at Hammonasset Beach Sate Park, who wanted him to stop flying his drone because she said he was "a little pervert" trying to capture girls in bikinis.

Then, in July 2015, a month after the weaponized drone video went viral, Haughwout was arrested in Clinton for allegedly assaulting two officers after they pulled him over.

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