CHAMPAIGN — Defendants usually have 21 days to respond to a federal lawsuit, but first someone has to deliver, or serve, the suit to them.
That’s what’s holding up the civil lawsuit filed last month against former University of Illinois Professor Gary Xu, attorneys for the plaintiffs told News-Gazette Media.
“Before the clock starts running on Xu’s response time, we need to serve him. However, he has left the jurisdiction and has kept his current location well-guarded, which has made service difficult,” said Ali Wilkinson, an attorney for the New York-based firm McAllister Olivarius. “Once we do serve, Xu would likely have 21 days to respond.”
According to the lawsuit, Xu lives in the 4700 block of Horse Creek Drive in Champaign.
A summons was issued Sept. 10, the day the lawsuit was filed.
Typically, the summons is returned executed within days, meaning the defendant has been served, or the defendant pre-emptively acknowledges the lawsuit to avoid the expense of being served.
But there’s been no update to the case since Sept. 17, when another summons was issued.
Last month, when there were concerns that Xu might flee the country, Wilkinson said that regardless, McAllister Olivarius would continue to pursue the case.
“If he has fled, we will continue to zealously pursue this case against him, in conformance with international treaties and the law,” she said.
“His victims deserve the chance to be heard, and Xu needs to be held accountable for his actions.”
In the 87-page lawsuit, two of Xu’s former UI students accuse him of taking advantage of his position as head of the East Asian Languages and Cultures department from 2012 to 2015 to sexually and emotionally exploit his young Chinese students, who depended on him for their visas.
One woman accused Xu of raping and beating her multiple times from 2013 to 2015, when she was dating him as an undergraduate.
Another alleged that when she worked with Xu, he took credit for hours of translation work she did, paid her minimally for work on his art exhibits, attempted to kiss her and belittled her intelligence.
And a third plaintiff, a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, alleged that Xu threatened his life after he publicized accusations against Xu in March 2018 on Chinese websites.
They’re seeking damages and unpaid wages on 10 counts, including emotional distress, gender violence, involuntary servitude, forced labor and sex trafficking.
Xu was placed on paid administrative leave in January 2016 and resigned in August 2018.
On his way out, the UI paid Xu $10,000, according to his separation agreement.
Xu could not be reached for comment.
In his response to the UI’s investigation, he called the allegations “preposterous” and “full of speculations, imaginations, unfounded accusations and false statements.”
He also said it relies on “words that were thrice recanted.”
The woman who made the allegations of rape filed several complaints with the UI that were later withdrawn, though she said it was because Xu had threatened her and her family.