Deputy Director of Public Safety Steve Moore was summarily terminated Tuesday afternoon apparently for his refusal to abandon his personal crusade to free American Amanda Knox from the Italian jail cell where she faces spending the next 25 years of her life.
Chief Administrative Officer Phil Phillips came to Moore’s office around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday Moore said and told him there was a “cab waiting outside” for him. The dismissal came after Moore refused to stop publicly professing Knox’s innocence and then later declined an offer to resign with a severance package and a promise to keep Pepperdine’s name out of media attention related to the controversy Moore said.
Administrators and spokespersons were unable to either explain or defend the decision based on University policy not to discuss personnel matters.
“In general we try to make the right decision regardless of implications— including PR [implications]— and often without ability to completely defend our actions wrote Keith Hinkle, Pepperdine’s vice president for advancement and public affairs and chief development officer, in an e-mail. Because that is also the right thing to do.”
Knox who was studying abroad in Perugia Italy was convicted in December 2009 of the rape and murder of her roommate British student Meredith Kercher. Also convicted in connection with the crimes were Knox’s then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito who is an Italian citizen and Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Guede.
The case drew heated international media attention much of it branding Knox as a promiscuous party girl.
But Moore a retired special agent with the FBI was prompted by his wife to take a closer look at the case. He drew upon his 25 years of experience as a federal investigator to pursue a personal investigation examining hard evidence weeding out rumor and finally arriving at a conclusion: that Knox and Sollecito were both innocent.
His investigation started last November. In mid-April Moore began posting articles to a pro-Knox website injusticeinperugia.org highlighting his background his motivation and his reasoning behind why he thought Knox and Sollecito were innocent.
On April 16 just days after his first article appeared online Moore said he informed Phillips and Executive Vice President Gary Hanson of his side project.
“And they said ‘well go for it. But keep Pepperdine out of it'” Moore said Wednesday. “And to this day I have— except for the Graphic article on the ninth [of September] which wasn’t my decision. And you know I told them the whole time that I couldn’t guarantee anything and they acknowledged the fact that nobody can guarantee that this won’t happen.”
On Sept. 2 Moore appeared on NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” to talk about his conclusions. But no mention of Pepperdine ever entered the media discourse. On Sept. 9 an article appeared in the Graphic.
Moore said the evidence he examined completely exonerated Knox. He characterized the prosecution as an abuse of power— an anomaly within the Italian justice system. He also supported claims that police had beaten a confession out of her on the night of her arrest.
“It wasn’t until I went on TV that all of a sudden they said it had to stop Moore said. And really nothing had changed.”
Moore said the request to stop came in the form of an e-mail from Phillips on Sept. 16 where according to Moore’s description of the e-mail the administrator expressed concern over the potential threat to Pepperdine students in the Florence program— that if the officials or others in Perugia were as Moore described them then it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine them retaliating against those in the Pepperdine community.
“I met with [Phillips] the next day and told him that I couldn’t in any good conscience stop what I was doing Moore said.
On [Sept.] 20th he [Phillips] sent me a proposal Moore said. That I send him my resignation by Wednesday the 22nd. They would pay me for three months of salary to do this.”
Moore continued: “But then they told me that I would have to sign something beyond the normal confidentiality agreement you have when you leave the university.”
Moore said signing the agreement would require him to keep all mention of Pepperdine and its community members out of any public discourse relating to the Amanda Knox trial.
“So the bottom line is they were going to pay me something like $25000 in return for my silence about what Pepperdine had done Moore said. And I told them no. I have too many mirrors in my house to be able to live that way.”
Moore who believes he’s been wrongly terminated said he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.
“I didn’t do this because I had any place to go he said. I did it in spite of not having a place to go.”
He continued: “I’m not going to write a book. I’m not going to make money off this case. That’s not what this is all about. This is about a human being in Italy who was a foreign programs student who’s been pretty much abandoned by a lot of people— and now by Pepperdine.”
In the wake of his sudden dismissal Moore has received a wave of support from friends colleagues and family members.
“I have had dozens and dozens and dozens of e-mails from the officers from the sergeants from the students all telling me I’m doing the right thing Moore said. And I’ve had several come in and just say that it’s tragic what’s happened he said.
It feels good Moore said, only because I know it’s the right thing to do.”