Bruns­wick seeks gag or­der, de­fends against law­suit

The Norwalk Hour - - NEWS - By Robert Marchant rmarchant @green­wichtime.com

GREEN­WICH — Bruns­wick School is seek­ing a gag or­der on a law­suit filed against the school by the fam­ily of a young woman who claims she was sex­u­ally as­saulted by a Bruns­wick stu­dent at an out-of­school pool party.

In court pa­pers filed late last week, the school also dis­putes many of the claims made in the law­suit, lay­ing out a more ro­bust de­fense of the Bruns­wick ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the mat­ter than a state­ment sent out by the school in Au­gust.

The law­suit, filed in state Su­pe­rior Court, claims the Bruns­wick ad­min­is­tra­tion was neg­li­gent and in­flicted emo­tional distress on the then-16-year-old girl in the af­ter­math of the pool party in 2016. A fed­eral law­suit is also pend­ing, con­tend­ing that the Green­wich Po­lice De­part­ment acted im­prop­erly in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case, which did not re­sult in an ar­rest.

Bruns­wick is seek­ing to re­move the anonymity of the fam­ily su­ing the school, if they com­mu­ni­cate fur­ther with the me­dia. The school’s fil­ing takes ex­cep­tion with news ar­ti­cles about the suit in this news­pa­per, and else­where, claim­ing they were “prej­u­di­cial.”

Ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing, sub­mit­ted by at­tor­ney James Sconzo: “Con­necti­cut courts have been clear: Plain­tiffs who en­gage in pub­lic­ity cam­paigns and co­op­er­ate with the news me­dia are not en­ti­tled to anonymity.”

Con­tin­u­ing, the Bruns­wick at­tor­ney wrote, the young woman and her fam­ily “have been us­ing their anonymity as a sword when at­tack­ing Bruns­wick in the press and a shield in this court ask­ing for pro­tec­tion from pur­ported emo­tional harm.” He said the fam­ily was mak­ing “false ac­cu­sa­tions while hid­ing be­hind their cloak of anonymity.”

Mered­ith Brax­ton, the Green­wich lawyer rep­re­sent­ing fam­ily su­ing Bruns­wick, de­clined to com­ment, cit­ing the re­cent court fil­ing re­quest­ing a gag or­der on the case.

Court doc­u­ments to date have shielded the iden­ti­ties of the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor as well as the al­leged vic­tim.

Bruns­wick, and the town of Green­wich, are be­ing sued in the wake of an endof-school party held by the fam­ily of the 16-year-old girl on June 3, 2016. The law­suit says a then-16-year-old Bruns­wick stu­dent forced him­self on her, pulled her cloth­ing down and grop­ing her gen­i­tal area as she strug­gled to get away from him in a pool house at the party. The girl was at­tend­ing Green­wich Academy, which has an af­fil­i­a­tion with Bruns­wick for shared classes and so­cial events.

The law­suit main­tains that Bruns­wick should have ex­pelled the stu­dent af­ter the in­ci­dent came to light, and that the young woman was ex­posed to her al­leged at­tacker at com­bined so­cial and school events, caus­ing her ad­di­tional emo­tional distress.

Bruns­wick’s court fil­ing presents a dif­fer­ent por­trayal of events. The GA stu­dent vol­un­tar­ily chose to take an English class at Bruns­wick, the fil­ing states, and she also vol­un­tar­ily went to a dance at Bruns­wick at which she saw the young man.

“She chose to at­tend a Bruns­wick dance on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 22, 2016, where she al­legedly saw (the Bruns­wick stu­dent) from afar, al­though the two never di­rectly in­ter­acted,” the fil­ing states.

The school did what it could to limit in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the two, Sconzo wrote, in­clud­ing pro­hibit­ing the boy from go­ing to Green­wich Academy.

An­other point of con­tention in­volves the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol at the party. The fa­ther of the girl stated in court records and in a re­cent in­ter­view that he aimed to screen party guests who ap­peared in­tox­i­cated from en­ter­ing, and was tak­ing steps to make sure the event was al­co­hol­free, with the as­sis­tance of his son.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bruns­wick court fil­ing, as well as the ap­pli­ca­tion for an ar­rest war­rant ob­tained by Green­wich Time through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest, there was al­co­hol be­ing con­sumed on the prop­erty. The ap­pli­ca­tion states that the girl told po­lice “she did not sup­ply any al­co­hol to any guests the night of the party, but that some guests did bring their own al­co­hol.” She told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she was not in­tox­i­cated on the night in ques­tion.

The law­suit against Bruns­wick con­tends that the al­leged at­tacker was put on “dis­ci­plinary warn­ing,” which Brax­ton said pre­vi­ously was “mean­ing­less.” The re­cent court fil­ing from Bruns­wick, how­ever, said it was a sig­nif­i­cant sanc­tion — the young man could have faced ex­pul­sion for any other of­fense, even a mi­nor one.

While Green­wich po­lice sub­mit­ted an ar­rest war­rant ap­pli­ca­tion for the Bruns­wick stu­dent, aim­ing to charge him with fourthde­gree sex­ual as­sault, a felony, the ap­pli­ca­tion was de­clined by state pros­e­cu­tors. He later grad­u­ated from Bruns­wick.

The law­suit against Bruns­wick charges that se­cu­rity staff at the school, who were former Green­wich po­lice of­fi­cers, had a “back chan­nel” within the po­lice de­part­ment, ex­er­cis­ing in­flu­ence on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The law­suit also con­tends the school ad­min­is­tra­tion worked to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive among the par­tic­i­pants who went to the party — mak­ing it was im­pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine with cer­tainty what hap­pened that night.

The court fil­ing last week de­nies that the Bruns­wick ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to in­ter­fere with the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and states: “Bruns­wick at­tempted to fully in­ves­ti­gate this mat­ter but was un­able to do so be­cause of the fam­ily’s re­fusal to per­mit (the girl) to meet with Bruns­wick.”

Sconzo con­cluded the school’s case in the re­cent fil­ing: “This law­suit is ul­ti­mately about mis­placed anger; un­sup­ported al­le­ga­tions about what hap­pened at Plain­tiffs’ home, a fun­da­men­tal dis­re­gard for due process, and a con­cocted the­ory that Bruns­wick con­spired or in­ter­fered with the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, car­ried out prin­ci­pally by De­tec­tive Krystie Ron­dini, presents a range of dif­fer­ent view­points on the pool party from dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pants, a num­ber of whom said the young woman ap­peared dis­tressed af­ter the en­counter in the pool house with the young man. The doc­u­ments from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ob­tained through a FOIA re­quest, also present in­ter­views from sev­eral friends of the young woman who said she told them not long af­ter the event that she had suf­fered a sex­ual as­sault and was deeply up­set by it. They later en­cour­aged her to seek help and re­port the mat­ter, which took place when the young woman told a coun­selor at Green­wich Academy.

The Green­wich Academy stu­dent, and oth­ers, were try­ing to help the young man vomit into a toi­let in­side the pool house, as a way of purg­ing al­co­hol from his sys­tem and sober­ing him up, ac­cord­ing to records. When the two were alone to­gether, the as­sault al­legedly took place. He later went home with oth­ers in a car or­dered through Uber. Court doc­u­ments say the young man later con­tacted her on so­cial me­dia, apol­o­gized for his be­hav­ior and claimed he couldn’t re­mem­ber the evening due to heavy drink­ing.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fice at Bruns­wick did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day.

Be­sides the law­suit against Bruns­wick, a fed­eral law­suit is also pend­ing against the town and the Green­wich Po­lice De­part­ment. It claims po­lice al­lowed the Bruns­wick head­mas­ter to in­ter­view Bruns­wick stu­dents be­fore of­fi­cers did, al­low­ing the the school to lay out a case that no prob­a­ble cause ex­isted for crim­i­nal charges, and high­lights what it claims were other de­fi­cien­cies. Lawyers for the de­part­ment and its of­fi­cers have stated a “thor­ough and proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion” was con­ducted and de­nied there was any im­pro­pri­ety.

Tyler Size­more / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Bruns­wick School’s Up­per School cam­pus on Ma­her Av­enue in Green­wich.

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