Citadel lawyer hoped to avoid criminal probe of abuse

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 2:38 PM
Citadel lawyer hoped to avoid criminal probe of abuse

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters)- Newly released documents tied to a 2007 internal probe of child sexual abuse allegations against a camp counselor at The Citadel show a school lawyer hoped a criminal investigation of the matter could be avoided.

Local and state police are investigating The Citadel -- South Carolina's military college -- for not reporting to authorities a 2007 allegation by a former summer camper that he was sexually abused by the counselor five years earlier, when he was 14.

The case emerged in public in the wake of the child abuse scandal at Penn State University involving a football coach. Another case of alleged sexual abuse by a coach has prompted an investigation at Syracuse University.

The man at the center of the allegations, former camp counselor Louis "Skip" ReVille, was arrested last month on separate charges of abusing five boys in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Police said he had admitted to those crimes, and more charges have since been filed.

A Citadel graduate, ReVille had worked as a counselor at the school's camp for three summers between 2001 and 2003. The Citadel closed its camp in 2006. ReVille had worked elsewhere as a school principal and sports coach.

The Citadel did not report the allegations to police, instead asking in-house counsel Mark Brandenburg to investigate, and took no further action.

"I found (the former camper) to be believable," Brandenburg wrote in an e-mail in August 2007, according to the documents released by The Citadel on Wednesday.

"His story remained the same as the one he related to me over to the phone some time ago," Brandenburg wrote.

"No 'formal' civil or criminal investigation has been initiated," he wrote in another email that month.

"Although the complainant could certainly file a report with the police, which would start a criminal investigation, or file a lawsuit in civil court, which would start a civil investigation, the complainant has done neither."

"Moreover, I am hopeful that, by conducting an investigation on behalf of the school, no 'formal' investigation -- civil or criminal -- will occur," Brandenburg wrote.

According to an interview transcript, which The Citadel released last month, the young man told Brandenburg he and other campers used to hang out in ReVille's room "and then one night, he pulled out a pornographic video and put it in and started masturbating".

"He encouraged everyone in the room to join in. And they did. And I guess he made an agreement with these kids that he would keep buying them Chinese food and pizza and all these good things and give them privileges if they continued to come to his room," the interview document said.

The emails show Brandenburg writing that the former camper's parents felt "the school can be part of the solution, even as it was part of the problem," and that the ex-camper expressed interest in attending The Citadel.

The documents state The Citadel wanted to reach a financial settlement with the family, and Brandenburg was authorized to offer them $20,000.

Julie Moore, a Charleston lawyer for the former camper, said last month that: "When (the family) went to The Citadel in 2007, they wanted to make sure that there were no other victims of Skip ReVille. They didn't want any other family to go through what they went through."

"Fortunately, since we now have an interview with (the former camper), we have an unequivocal trigger for the statute of limitations," Brandenburg wrote in a November 2007 email, going on to detail when the period for bringing formal charges might expire under the statute.

The documents show Brandenburg referring to the former camper's allegations as "a new round of sexual abuse at the summer camp" and linked the case with a previous child sexual assault case at The Citadel.

In 2006, the school paid a $3.8 million judgment in a civil suit filed by five former campers who said they were sexually assault by Marine officer and camp counselor Michael Arpaio. Arpaio was court-martialed for the crimes by the U.S. Marine Corps and served time in Charleston's Navy Brig.

"Skip (ReVille), as I have reported, denies all this," Brandenburg wrote in an e-mail. "However, Arpaio's initial denials were equally forceful, and, unfortunately, ultimately proved totally false."

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has said he will review the sexual abuse scandal when police investigations finish.

Citadel President John W. Rosa apologized at a news conference last month.

"This should have been reported (to police)," he said. "We're profoundly sorry, sorry that we didn't pursue it more. We acted on what we thought was our best information ... We're all held accountable."

(Editing by Jerry Norton and Greg McCune)