More sex­ual abuse un­cov­ered

Of­fi­cials at elite pri­vate school re­lease find­ings of lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Luther Turmelle

WALLINGFORD — A sec­ond in­ves­ti­ga­tion into claims of adult sex­ual mis­con­duct at Choate Rose­mary Hall has con­firmed the ve­rac­ity of new sex­ual as­sault claims against sev­eral for­mer fac­ulty mem­bers.

Head­mas­ter Alex Cur­tis and Michael Carr, chair­man of Choate’s board of trus­tees an­nounced the lat­est find­ings in a let­ter sent to mem­bers of the school com­mu­nity Fri­day. The re­port de­tails the find­ings of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted by for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for the state of Con­necti­cut, Stan Twardy, and his Con­necti­cut-based law firm, Day Pit­ney.

Twardy pre­sented the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the pri­vate school’s board of trus­tees Fri­day. The Day Pit­ney in­ves­ti­ga­tion came as the re­sult of new sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions that sur­faced fol­low­ing the April 2017 re­lease of a re­port from an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor hired by the school.

Day Pit­ney cor­rob­o­rated new

re­ports of mis­con­duct by three for­mer fac­ulty mem­bers or their spouses not pre­vi­ously named in the in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s re­port, the let­ter from Cur­tis and Carr said in part.

The three in­di­vid­u­als named in the lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion are:

▶▶ Robert Igle­hart, who was a mem­ber of the Choate fac­ulty from 1957 to 1964. In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ceived, and were able to cor­rob­o­rate, mul­ti­ple first­hand re­ports that Igle­hart used an out­break of measles as a pre­text for fondling stu­dents in a dor­mi­tory. Igle­hart died in 1998, the re­port says.

▶▶ Bette Spencer, who was the wife of a for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber. In­ves­ti­ga­tors found and cor­rob­o­rated a first­hand re­port Spencer had en­gaged in sex­ual abuse, in­clud­ing kiss­ing and fondling, with a stu­dent in the late 1960s, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter to mem­bers of the Choate com­mu­nity. Spencer died in 2003, the re­port says.

▶▶ Carl John­son, who was a fac­ulty mem­ber from 1969 to 2001. A first­hand re­port in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ceived and cor­rob­o­rated, al­leged John­son had “kissed and fon­dled a stu­dent who had re­cently grad­u­ated when the stu­dent vis­ited cam­pus in the mid-1980s.” A mes­sage seek­ing com­ment was left with John­son.

“In our in­ter­view with John­son, he de­nied hav­ing an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ship with any stu­dent or for­mer stu­dent, de­nied kiss­ing a stu­dent, de­nied ever invit­ing a for­mer stu­dent to stay overnight at his home, and de­nied talk­ing with any­one, in­clud­ing (for­mer head­mas­ter Ed) Shana­han, about re­la­tion­ships with stu­dents,” the re­port says. “John­son ad­mit­ted that he had mas­saged the shoul­ders of male and fe­male stu­dents, mostly ath­letes, to help ‘get kinks out.’ When asked whether he had made any sex­ual ad­vances to­ward stu­dents, John­son replied, ‘No, not in dorms’ and upon fur­ther in­quiry, said not out­side of dorms ei­ther.”

Day Pit­ney also was able to cor­rob­o­rate that John­son al­legedly en­gaged in sex­u­ally abusive con­duct over a num­ber of years with a dif­fer­ent Choate stu­dent who grad­u­ated in the late 1970s. The abusive con­duct oc­curred dur­ing and af­ter that stu­dent’s time at the pri­vate school.

The law firm also re­ceived new re­ports of sex­ual mis­con­duct in­volv­ing for­mer fac­ulty who were named in the 2017 re­port. Those re­ports, which were re­ceived af­ter April 2017, in­cluded:

▶▶ Three first­hand re­ports were re­ceived and cor­rob­o­rated that John Joseph sex­u­ally abused the child of a for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber in the late 1950s and gave in­ap­pro­pri­ate mas­sages to stu­dents. Joseph was a fac­ulty mem­ber from 1944 to 1977. He died in 1984, the re­port says.

There were four first­hand re­ports that were re­ceived and cor­rob­o­rated that Wil­liam Mail­let, a fac­ulty mem­ber from 1961 to 1983, sex­u­ally abused the child of a fac­ulty mem­ber in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mail­let, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found, also kissed a stu­dent and gave in­ap­pro­pri­ate mas­sages to stu­dents. Mail­let died in 2012, the re­port said.

▶▶ Day Pit­ney in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ceived and cor­rob­o­rated a first­hand re­port that Ken­neth Mills, the hus­band of a fac­ulty mem­ber who lived in Choate hous­ing from

1975 to 1983, kissed and fon­dled a stu­dent in the late 1970s. Mills died in 1983, the re­port says.

Choate of­fi­cials also re­ceived what they termed “cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions” of abuse by a for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber that were sep­a­rate from Day Pit­ney’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Lawyers for the school were able to cor­rob­o­rate the al­le­ga­tions made against for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber through con­ver­sa­tions with for­mer dor­mi­tory pre­fects and oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter the school sent out.

Choate lawyers found that the for­mer fac­ulty mem­ber en­gaged in sex­u­ally abusive con­duct with a stu­dent over a se­ries of months dur­ing the 1989-90 aca­demic year. School of­fi­cials learned of the mis­con­duct in May 2017 and then con­tacted the school that was em­ploy­ing the per­son, which re­sulted in ter­mi­na­tion from that job.

The let­ter from Cur­tis and Carr to mem­bers of the Choate com­mu­nity comes six weeks af­ter the school fired one of its teach­ers af­ter find­ing “cred­i­ble ev­i­dence” he en­gaged in im­proper con­duct while work­ing at the Foote School in New Haven more than a decade ago.

The let­ter from Cur­tis and Carr of­fers apol­o­gizes “to all sur­vivors who suf­fered abuse at our school and to their fam­i­lies.”

“We also rec­og­nize that Day Pit­ney’s let­ter de­tails trou­bling in­stances where the school failed to ad­dress re­ports of mis­con­duct ap­pro­pri­ately,” the let­ter says in part. “We know that our con­stant vig­i­lance is re­quired, and we have taken many steps and com­mit­ted re­sources to pro­tect­ing our com­mu­nity.”

One of the steps the school has taken is cre­at­ing a Com­mu­nity Well­ness & Re­sources page on the Choate web­site. It con­tains in­for­ma­tion to help alumni make re­ports and to ac­cess the ther­apy fund that as­sists alumni who ex­pe­ri­enced adult sex­ual mis­con­duct at Choate.

“We con­tinue to be grate­ful to our for­mer stu­dents who have come for­ward to share their ex­pe­ri­ences,” the let­ter con­cludes. “We are in­spired by their brav­ery and ap­pre­ci­ate their will­ing­ness to share their sto­ries so that we can all bet­ter un­der­stand this his­tory and foster a strong and safe com­mu­nity at Choate Rose­mary Hall.”

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Choate Rose­mary Hall

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