Murky Past Trails Man to Harvard

34-year-old who comped Advocate, studied in Lowell denies lurid accusations

Unnamed photo
Timur Kalimov

Michael E. Godelia seeks to clear his name after decade-old allegations that he committed a sex crime reappear on a Harvard blog.

CORRECTION APPENDED

Mark E. Baran ’10 was looking for work last fall when he met Michael A. Godelia, who was affable, ambitious, and in search of a Web designer.

“He was personable and charismatic, and I thought, ‘Why not?’” Baran said.

Assuming his former employer was a fellow undergraduate, Baran got back in touch with Godelia when he had a business idea of his own. About a month and a half ago, they began working together on a start-up called the Jiff Group.

The company was in its conceptual stages when Godelia was thrown into the limelight last week in a widely circulated blog entry revealing that Godelia was, in fact, 34 years old, was not a registered student, and had been accused a decade ago of breaking into apartments at night and, at least once, ejaculating onto a sleeping woman’s face.

“Needless to say, I was surprised,” Baran said. “You assume a lot of things based on what people are doing. I saw him on campus, and in Lamont, and I didn’t think to ask him, are you really a student? He always presented himself as a Harvard student.”

In an interview on Monday, Godelia, a registered Extension School student through Fall 2006, maintained that he was, indeed, still a member of the Harvard community. He said that the charge that earned him the moniker “Loose Cannon” as a former Baylor University undergraduate was bogus, and that a DNA test had cleared his name.

What actually happened during Godelia’s time at Baylor more than 10 years ago is still unclear, and Godelia said last night that he could not immediately document the DNA test.

The Baylor police chief at the time, Jim Doak, said yesterday, “We had some very deep concerns about Mr. Godelia,” and added that he couldn’t recall any DNA tests. The local district attorney’s office said they had no recollection of the case but provided The Crimson with documents showing Godelia had been charged three times for criminal trespass, once for sexual assault, and once for burglary between 1994 and 1998; all of those charges were dropped except two of the criminal trespass charges, each leading to a year’s jail sentence for Godelia. (Godelia said he spent less than five months in jail.)

Now at Harvard, Godelia has become the subject of public suspicion and police scrutiny.

“We are aware of Mr. Godelia and we are looking into his activity on campus,” Harvard University Police Department spokesman Steven G. Catalano wrote in an e-mailed statement.

COLLEGE LIFE, AT 34

Had the blog entry, which appeared on harvardhair.blogspot.com, gone unwritten, Godelia might have gone on successfully emulating the life of a typical Harvard College undergraduate. Since entering the Extension School in Fall 2005, Godelia comped the Harvard Advocate and tried to join the group planning the Evening with Champions charity figure-skating event. He hung out at Lamont Library, partied in the Quad, went to meetings of the Harvard Scandinavian society, and even attended brain break at Lowell House.

While Godelia’s actions struck some students who observed him as odd, he was not necessarily breaking Harvard rules. Extension School students, even if they are not currently enrolled, still have access to the libraries with a valid Harvard ID, according to spokeswoman Linda A. Cross. And the Lowell dining hall, one of Godelia’s favorite haunts, can be entered during the day without swiping an undergraduate ID card.

While Godelia is not currently a registered Harvard student, he was registered at the Extension School from Fall 2005 to Fall 2006, for three semesters. Godelia said he considers himself part of the undergraduate class.

“There needs to be a deeper understanding that the undergraduate population is the College and the Extension School,” Godelia said over coffee at Café Algiers, wearing a tweed jacket and a Harvard necktie.

But according to some, Godelia’s attempts to interact with College students bordered on harassment.

“He has been told that he is unwelcome at the Advocate building because of inappropriate behavior at Advocate social events,” Greg R. Scruggs ’07, the president of the Advocate, wrote in an e-mailed statement. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

‘CALL HUPD IF YOU SEE THIS MAN’

The blogger who publicized Godelia’s past is Kameron A. Collins ’09, who, following a tip, posted an entry last Thursday citing a 1996 article in Baylor’s student newspaper, the Lariat. The article, which began, “The Loose Cannon has been lassoed again,” detailed Godelia’s alleged misdeeds and reported that he had been arrested for trespassing after an 11-day stakeout.

Collins’ blog posting quickly began circulating on House e-mail lists under subject headings such as “CREEPY: call HUPD if you see this man!”

By Sunday, Collin said, his posting on Godelia had received over 1,000 unique hits.

In response, Godelia sent a scathing e-mail subject-lined “Clearing my Name” to 25 undergraduates. Addressing Collins, Godelia asked, “Are you really my friend, Kam? You smile, laugh and appear genuine to my face and then, out of no where [sic], I am slapped in the face, with your blatantly inaccurate and irresponsible article?”

By last night, Collins had added two new entries on Godelia, in part defending his decision to bring the matter to the surface. “Writing about him was a responsibility, not a choice,” one said.

Collins’ first entry, which included a photograph of Godelia flashing a grin at a party, revealed a familiar face to some.

“I was walking out of a final and he told me he liked my jacket, and started talking to me,” said James B. Onstad ’09. “We talked for maybe half an hour and over the next year he contacted me a few times through Facebook. He always had business schemes he was trying to pitch to me.”

Joseph K. Cooper ’07 said Godelia has shown up to parties in his Currier House suite uninvited. “This guy was very strange,” Cooper said. “He asked a couple of sophomore girls where they lived, and asked for the layout of Currier. It was very off-putting.”

Godelia, a sharp dresser partial to emphatic statements and enthusiastic hand gestures, insists he has been the target of unfair characterizations. Yesterday, he says, a Law School official took him out of lecture for Government 1092, “The Past and Future of the Left,” and told him he would not be able to attend any longer.

Pound Professor of Law Roberto M. Unger, who teaches the class, did not return a request for comment. Godelia said he did not understand why he was asked to leave.

“She said Professor Unger was getting complaints from several students that I disrupt the class and make learning difficult for them,” he said. “And I was like, ‘What?’ I am one of the best students in the class. I actively participate and I bring up ideas that the professor finds intriguing and brilliant.”

—Staff writer Anna L. Tong can be reached at tong@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: The April 11 news article "Murky Past Trails Man to Harvard" gave the wrong
class year for Greg R. Scruggs. He is in the Class of 2008, not 2007.