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RI Supreme Court Justice Blocked Effort to Unveil St. George’s Abuse in 1980s

Thursday, January 14, 2016

 

An effort by a former St. George’s student to bring attention to sexual abuse at the school in the 1980s was crushed by a prominent Providence attorney — none other than Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice William Robinson III. 

A review of court documents by GoLocal shows that Robinson, who was representing St. George’s at the time as an attorney with the Providence law firm of Edwards and Angell, tried to force Jane Doe — who is now known is Anne Scott — to reveal her real name in the lawsuit alleging rape and molestation at the hands of the school’s athletic trainer. 

Robinson claimed the sex could have been consensual, and filed a motion that she be barred from contacting “any large portion of the alumni” - while arguing her name be made public to draw out potential whistleblowers. 

The case was virtually at the midpoint of the sex abuse allegations at St. George’s that have recently come to light after Scott reopened the case, as reported in the Boston Globe. 

“Justice Robinson would not speak to the Globe on the matter, but in a statement released by his law clerk Tuesday said: “In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court, which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must — zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate,” wrote Bella English for the Globe on January 6.

Robinson was appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2004.

The documents reviewed reveal that United States Magistrate Jacob Hagopian repeatedly rebuffed Robinson’s attempts during the $10 million lawsuit Scott filed against the school in 1988 as "Jane Doe" to have her name revealed, which he summed up when he finally turned down the defense -- and school's -- effort.

“Given the very nature of the underlying facts and circumstances of an alleged rape, which occurred on a 15 year old girl, where the defendant St. George’s School by reason of the action brought, is held to some sort of standard of accountability of what one of its employees allegedly visited upon this young girl. I think it would be outrageous for me to decide otherwise. It may be the first decision in the land, and so be it. I am delighted if that is the case,” wrote Hagopian in his decision to keep Scott’s name private — despite Robinson’s efforts — on May 30, 1989.

“You are concerned about the money aspect, the punitive damages. There is something more important that money can’t buy, and that’s the human dignity of a person, and we’re going to preserve it in this case,” wrote Hagopian. 

Documents Bring School Defense to Light

The recent sexual abuse allegations at the Middletown, Rhode Island prep school has prompted the school to now hire an independent investigator — only after Scott and others went public against the school for both the alleged crimes — and cover-up 

The Globe reported in December that while in her mid-20s Scott “filed a lawsuit seeking $10 million, but when the school pushed back aggressively, Scott backed off — and moved abroad to rebuild her life. This year, almost 40 years after she first arrived at St. George’s, Anne Scott felt strong enough to pursue her unfinished business with St. George's.”

The survivor group “Healing for St. Georges” has released a number of pertinent documents to the investigation, including a copy of St. George’s 1988 U.S. District Court motion to dismiss the alleged rape and molestation complaint by student “Jane Doe.” 

The report and recommendation state the known facts by now — that Scott attended St. George’s from 1977 and 1980 during which time she says was raped and molested by her trainer, and that years later she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression which required hospitalization, and she revealed what happened at the school to her therapist in 1986 — who provided an affidavit in the 1988 lawsuit. 

A document dated March 1, 1989 revealed the school’s defense — and attempt to deny Scott’s privacy —  when Scott’s attorney Robert Lovegreen filed a motion for a protective order, and St. George’s defense lawyers Frank Manni and Robinson argued against it. 

Lovegreen put forth the argument for protecting rights of privacy under certain circumstances, stating they weren’t asking the public be denied access to court docket - “that’s already done,” he quipped, asking instead that information not be provided that would identify the plaintiff due to her fragile mental condition.

“You seek to protect from disclosure the identity of this lady - that is all?” Hagopian asked, to which Lovegreen replied it was.  

Hagopian then asked Manni and Robinson, “What prejudice is visited upon St. George’s School — what is that, corporation - by preserving the identity of a victim of an alleged assault that occurred on the premises?”

Manni replied that the allegation would cause a “stigma on the defendant" -- i.e. St. George's.

"There's No Shame"

The defense, first led by Manni, then Robinson, attempted to make a case for denying the privacy protection to Scott, to which Hagopian repeatedly fired back. 

“Explain to me under the criminal laws of the U.S. where the element of it being “volitional or non-volitional” or voluntary or non-voluntary, has anything to do with this type of detestable allegation made by a person not of the age of consent,” said Hagopian. “Can you explain that to me?”

“To the extent that the punitive damages sought [are] $10 million,” said Robinson. 

Robinson went on to suggest that a consensual relationship between Scott and the trainer could have been possible, when questioned by Hagopian. 

“I don’t see how identity has any limitation upon discovery. I read and reread and read and reread your respective memorandums,” said Hagopian, “And if it appears that I’m a little rude in cutting you off then I apologize, I just don’t know what more can be added by you telling me that, maybe further inquiry would disclose a consensual relationship?

“That’s one suggestion,” Robinson responded. 

“It’s impossible,” said Hagopian. “It violates the criminal law of the U.S.” 

“Maybe people will come forward and say the plaintiff…has a tendency to lie,” said Robinson.

Hagopian replied that the defense could determine that -- or not -- during discovery — and repeatedly turned down claims by the defense as to why Scott’s name was necessary for the process. 

During the proceedings, Robinson compared the revelation of a rape victim’s name to that of mugging victim. 

“What shame is there in being a victim? Maybe if you and I were mugged in the street, there’s not reason to be shamed,” posed Robinson to Hagopian, as to why Scott's name should be revealed.

Robinson also suggested that a victim choosing not to reveal their name might have other reasons. 

“I think it is entirely possible that a plaintiff [decide] not to go forward because they don’t truly believe their story,” said Robinson. 

Hagopian ultimately sided with the plaintiff. 

“It would seem to me that compelling reason has been demonstrated to the court the entitle this person to bring suit without any prejudice being visited upon either side by not publicly disclosing her identity,” said Hagopian.  

Now, nearly twenty years later, Scott — and others — are going public, and the Rhode Island State Police are investigating rape claims -- that have no statute of limitations in Rhode Island. 

 

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#7

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#6

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#5

Headmaster: Robert Henderson

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#4

Headmaster: Todd B. Bland

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#3

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#2

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#1

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