Suit filed against NU employee hired to write book on Leopold-Loeb

A Northwestern University employee assigned to write a book about the notorious 1924 murder of a 14-year-old boy by two University of Chicago law students is being sued by the school for taking restricted files.

Nina Barrett was assigned to write a book on Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb — two wealthy students who murdered Bobby Franks in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

The north suburban university hired Barrett to write the book in 2009 after she curated a successful exhibit about the murder for the school. She left the school in December 2013 and did not return any of her files or research materials, according to the suit.

Northwestern conducted a forensic examination of Barrett’s school-issued laptop upon her departure and discovered she copied files related to the Leopold-Loeb book onto a USB flash drive, the lawsuit said. She also “restricted” access to certain files for her own benefit, according to the suit.

Barrett acknowledged that Northwestern contacted her about returning the files, but said the lawsuit “does not sound like an accurate description” of what really happened.

“I would love to talk about what I think,” she said. “But there are legal discussions going on and I don’t think I can comment.”

Barrett began working for Northwestern in 2006 and was promoted in 2011 to a communication specialist, the suit said. She said she recently opened a bookstore in Evanston.

The four-count suit seeks unspecified damages and claims copyright infringement. The university is also seeking compensation for legal fees.

Calls made to the school and its lawyers were not immediately returned Wednesday evening.

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