This is one of the more important blog posts I have written in a long time. It tells the tale of two grown men, William “Bill” Howcroft and a man we will call “Frank” (to protect his identity), who were sexually abused as boys by a janitor at their school, the now-closed Adams Memorial Junior High School in the Berkshires, in the mid-1970’s. I am honored to be the lawyer who represents Bill and Frank. The janitor, Clement St. Hilaire, is now 94 years old and lives in Adams. He has admitted to the molestation of the two men. The criminal statute of limitations has expired.
The Berkshire Eagle has written a bold, investigative piece into the St. Hilaire sex abuse scandal. Bob Dunn, a reporter at the Eagle, spearheaded the investigation, which has spanned months.
The story was published this morning, August 19. In just one day, three other victims have come forward, identifying themselves to either me or to my clients. While tragic, this is, unfortunately, not surprising. In other abuse cases I have handled, there are usually multiple casualties — molesters target kids and don’t stop with one victim. I expect additional victims to emerge.
Another development that was dispiriting but again, not surprising — the school district’s unwillingness to make this right. They declined to pay my clients any monetary settlement. They offered not a penny. Their sham “investigation,” as reported by Dunn, did not even include an interview of Bill or Frank. Imagine that for a moment. An investigation into molestation that does not involve speaking with the accusers. Stunning. Sometimes a blind eye is turned, a head is buried in the sand. Sometimes the perpetrator is quietly moved to another church parish. And sometimes …. an “investigation” is a pre-ordained pretense where everyone knows the results before the investigation even commences.
I call on the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District to take responsibility for employing a predator for many years and allowing him unfettered access to young boys, even during the summer, when school was closed. I call on the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District to apologize for their employee’s criminal conduct and to retract the statement, provided to the Eagle, that there was an “absence of proof” that St. Hilaire committed the alleged acts.
Justice Louis Brandeis once said that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Sunlight has now been shone on this sordid tale, thanks to Bill, Frank, myself, and the Berkshire Eagle. But unlike some schools (such as St. Paul’s in New Hampshire), which acknowledged abuse, apologized, and hired an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive, actual investigation), the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District has done no such thing. Even in the face of a literal admission by St. Hilaire.
“Absence of proof?” Please.