'Lobsterman' Trespassers, School Reach Deal

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Two college students pinched for breaking into the house-like stage of an art student posing as a 6-foot lobster handyman have settled a lawsuit against Carnegie Mellon University about their punishment, which includes a yearlong suspension.

Jeremy Nearhoof, 21, of Altoona, and Christopher Pierce, 22, of Cleveland, dropped their lawsuit Monday after the school decided to relax its punishment against the two for traipsing through Bill Kofmehl's performance stage March 2.

Nearhoof, Pierce and two other students were suspended for a year, must pay about $800 to cover the damage and write 15-page papers on diversity and freedom of expression.

The students can shorten the suspension if they perform community service, agree to a semester of social suspension that bars them from coming to campus except to attend class, and take an art class.

Carnegie Mellon agreed to count 240 hours of community service Nearhoof and Pierce already did toward reducing their suspensions.

The school will allow them to keep their campus jobs, spend two days a week on campus and let them eat at a school eateries during their social suspensions.

According to the university, Nearhoof and Pierce were among as many as a dozen students who may have tried to sneak into the house in March.

Kofmehl was silently building the house tucked in the corner of an engineering and art building from scrap wood. He refused to speak and did the work as "Lobsterman," dressing in a Halloween costume he long outgrew, a yellow tool belt and rubber boots.

Kofmehl got $1,000 from a university fund intended to encourage undergraduate research and artistic activity. Kofmehl and his advisers described the house as part performance art and part psychology.

He used the house as a stage to display some of his artwork and for periodic performances and lectures. Kofmehl also said he was studying what effect his silent alter ego would have on his communication and recorded his nighttime utterances for a future artistic piece.

During the break-in, a statue, a roof support and a stairwell were damaged, stalling Kofmehl's work and forcing him to talk.

As for Lobsterman, Kofmehl has to relocate the stage to another part of campus because officials said it was a fire hazard and his research project ended.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)