The Citadel accused in lawsuits of sex abuse cover-up
CHARLESTON, South Carolina
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Three young men who say they were molested by a former youth coach filed lawsuits on Monday against The Citadel and its president, accusing both of covering up alleged sexual abuse by the man when he was a camp counselor at the military college.
But an attorney for the school took issue with several of the allegations made in the suits and said the school would defend itself "vigorously" in all of the cases.
Louis "Skip" ReVille, 32, was working as a school principal in South Carolina when he was arrested last fall.
A grand jury in Charleston County indicted him earlier this month on 22 counts of child sex crimes involving 15 boys, including former Citadel summer campers. Police said he admitted to the crimes, but he has not yet entered a formal plea.
ReVille's case first drew national attention when The Citadel announced shortly after the Penn State University sex abuse scandal erupted in November that it had erred in failing to tell police about the allegations against ReVille in 2007.
The case was among a number of sex abuse accusations involving university or youth coaches across the country in recent months.
The military college released documents showing that a former camper told them in 2007 that, five years earlier, ReVille had taken the then 14-year-old camper to his room multiple times, showed him pornographic material, masturbated and encouraged him to masturbate.
Citadel President John W. Rosa said in November that the college's attorney conducted an internal investigation but took no further action. Rosa said he was sorry the college did not report the abuse to authorities.
According to a series of lawsuits filed Monday in state and federal court, ReVille confessed to campus police in 2002 that he had sexually abused children attending the camp and asked for help from the school.
ReVille, a graduate of The Citadel, worked as a counselor at the school's camp for three summers between 2001 and 2003. The lawsuits also said he was employed as a faculty member at the college in 2007 when the abuse was reported, but left shortly after with months to go on his contract.
He went on to become a principal and sports coach at several high schools and community recreation centers in South Carolina. The Citadel's internal policies and procedures required officials to report the abuse, said attorney W. Mullins McLeod Jr., who filed the lawsuits on behalf of one former summer camper and two other young men who allege later abuse by ReVille at other locations.
"The abuse was terrible," McLeod said in a news conference on Monday. "After he left The Citadel, ReVille formed a fraternity of victims called 'The Killers,' and he had nicknames for them based on the size and shape of their penises."
Initiation into 'The Killers' required performing oral sex on ReVille, the lawsuit said. The college engaged in a conspiracy to protect itself, McLeod said. Had The Citadel stopped ReVille in 2007, two of the other alleged victims would not have been abused in the following years, the lawsuit said.
One of those young men said ReVille sexually abused him hundreds of times starting at age 12, and the other reported that ReVille began abusing him when the alleged victim was 10.
Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke Jr. said several of the allegations made in the lawsuits were false. He said Rosa did not conspire to cover-up accusations against ReVille and disputed that ReVille previously tried to turn himself in to police.
Cooke said ReVille was a temporary employee in 2007 and had submitted his resignation before the abuse claims were made that year.
"We intend to vigorously defend all three of these cases," Cooke said, adding the school denies any negligence in the case of the former camper.
The suits seek unspecified damages for "severe and irreparable emotional harm," McLeod said.
In 2006, the school paid a $3.8 million judgment in a civil suit filed by five former campers who said they were sexually assaulted 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.
(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)