WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An embattled Kansas military school asked a federal judge Thursday to rule at least partially in its favor after a former cadet admitted to lying about being taped, bound and gagged against his will.
St. John's Military School submitted to the court a sworn deposition in which former student Michael Kelly said the alleged incident began as a joke and that he asked his classmates to send a picture of it to his mother so she would take him out of the school.
The school argued in its court filing that Kelly's claims are factually unsupported and contended it is entitled to partial summary judgment on them.
Kelly, a former student from Tennessee who attended St. John's from October 2009 until Nov. 2010, is among 11 former cadets and their families who have sued the Salina boarding school. The students contend the school's quasi-military cadet program, which gives higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline students, encourages physical and mental abuse. The former cadets — who hail from California, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and Illinois — filed the lawsuit in March 2012.
"Sadly, this is an instance where a false statement, false allegation, a false photograph and false exhibits were filed with the court and then widely disseminated by the media. This has caused significant harm to St. John's Military School," St. John's President Andrew England said in a written statement.
The school said it has spent a considerable amount on attorney's fees, expenses and staff hours battling Kelly's allegation.
"His untrue statement resulted in unfounded litigation and unfair and erroneous public perception," England said. "The immense harm to St. John's reputation and our students is significant and long-lasting."
The former cadets' attorneys, Dan Zmijewski and Michael Kilgore, said in an email Thursday that they will respond to St. John's latest motion in court, and look forward to the opportunity to present all of the sworn testimony so the jury can draw their own conclusions.
"Defendant's latest motion questions only one of the many, many experiences described in the Complaint and sworn testimony supporting the allegations of a fundamental lack of supervision at St. John's," the plaintiffs' attorneys said in their written statement. "We stand by these former students and the factual allegations made in this lawsuit."
In his deposition, Kelly said he voluntarily got down on the ground so his classmates could tape him up. He told attorneys he was taped up for five or ten minutes before another student cut the duct tape off him. He also gave varying accounts in his testimony of the incident.
"I did it all for the sake of fitting in," Kelly is quoted in one part of the deposition transcript. "I wasn't feeling like I was fitting in, so I had to do something stupid like this. So like they thought it was a joke. As soon as it started I was quickly turned away from it, I was just like, this isn't a joke. This is serious. This doesn't feel like it was set up and it genuinely scared me."