On Friday afternoon, a federal judge dismissed two counts of a lawsuit against Citadel President John W. Rosa while upholding a third count. The lawsuit was filed by John Doe 2, who alleges that Louis Neal "Skip" ReVille sexually assaulted him as a minor after ReVille finished working at the Citadel as a summer camp counselor and staff member.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff makes three claims: 1.) that Rosa violated Doe's "right to substantive due process of law," 2.) that Rosa was liable as a supervisor to ReVille, and 3.) that Rosa engaged in a civil conspiracy to conceal a complaint lodged against ReVille in 2007. Rosa requested that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel dismiss all three counts, and in an order issued on Friday, Gergel dismissed the second and third counts while leaving the first intact.
ReVille is currently in prison, serving a 50-year sentence after he pleaded guilty in June to 23 indictments related to molesting young boys. By his own admission, ReVille committed his crimes over the course of about a decade while employed in local schools and working with athletic programs and church youth groups. Among other offenses, he showed pornography to boys, coerced them to masturbate, and convinced them to lick peanut butter off of his penis.
Dawes Cooke, the Citadel's lawyer, issued the following statement from the Citadel via e-mail on Saturday: "While still in the early stages of these cases, we are very encouraged that at his first opportunity Judge Gergel threw out two of the three claims. He did so based on the utter lack of merit of the claims, without even the need to hear evidence. ... We appreciate Judge Gergel's leadership and look forward to proceeding with these cases in order to separate fact from fiction." Two suits remain standing against Rosa, and one claim remains intact in each of the two cases.
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The McLeod Law Group, which represents John Doe 2, claims that the remaining portion of the lawsuit is the most important one. "Due process, that's the main one," said Ellis Roberts, an attorney at McLeod. "That could open up the door for all other downstream cases."
The question at hand in the "due process" section is whether Rosa had a responsibility to report allegations of child sexual abuse by ReVille to law enforcement. A former summer camp attendee came to the school with accusations against ReVille in 2007, but the school and its attorney conducted an internal investigation and offered the accuser's family a $20,000 settlement (which they did not accept), according to transcripts provided by the school in November 2011.
Under South Carolina law, certain classes of professionals — including school teachers, counselors, and police officers — are required to report allegations of child abuse to law enforcement, but Judge Gergel wrote that the law "does not create a statutory duty for a college president." Still, Doe 2 claims that Rosa had a duty to report the allegations according to "accepted professional standards" of college administrators, internal policies at the Citadel, and the federal Clery Act, which requires all colleges receiving financial aid money to report crimes on campus to law enforcement.
In his order, Judge Gergel writes, "The assertion of a legally valid substantive due process claim arising out of a criminal act by a private person is a daunting and challenging task for any plaintiff." According to Gergel, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant engaged in activities that "shock the conscience" — specifically, Rosa's conduct would have to go beyond the "ordinary run of government neglect, inaction, and bad policy."
In his order, Gergel makes a reference to the Freeh Report, an independent investigation into the actions Penn State University took in response to allegations of abuse by retired football coach and now-convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. The report faults Penn State's president and administration for "fail[ing] to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," and Gergel writes that it seems "plausible" that Rosa, too, had a professional duty to report the ReVille allegations.
Gergel also includes a quotation from the 1982 U.S. Court of Appeals decision Bowers v. DeVito. In that case, a diagnosed schizophrenic was placed in a mental institution after killing a young woman, but he was released a few years later and went on to kill another woman with a knife. "If the state puts a man in a position of danger from private persons and then fails to protect him, it will not be heard to say that its role was merely passive; it is as much an active tortfeasor [that is, a wrongdoer] as if it had thrown him into a snake pit," the judge wrote in that case.