Citadel leaders say they will follow the recommendations from a review of how the military college handled a complaint about child molester Louis “Skip” ReVille.
The Citadel’s investigation was well-intentioned but inadequate.There was no conspiracy to conceal the allegations of sexual abuse from the public.The school’s lawyer acted unilaterally in deciding not to report the allegations to law enforcement officials.The school’s lawyer pursued the complaint as “a claim to be settled, not as a larger community issue.”Citadel staffers suffered from “believability bias” due to Skip ReVille’s prominence while a cadet.Source: Margolis Healy, Joseph McCulloch
While the review found the school’s investigation inadequate, it also found that the college did not conspire to keep the allegations from the public.
The report recommends The Citadel should:Revise its policy on the protection of minors.Continue training on sexual abuse.Appoint a half-time child- protection officer.Source: Wise Results, LLC
The report, released Friday, is about 100 pages and includes two documents — one on the investigation and another on recommendations for the future — and an executive summary.
It concluded that the school’s investigation into the 2007 complaint, while well-intentioned, was insufficient because it was conducted only by the school’s lawyer, Mark Brandenburg, “a single administrative staff member operating in a vacuum of policy and procedure,” according to the report’s executive summary.
Mullins McLeod, a lawyer representing four of ReVille’s victims, said he thinks the school had policies in place that it didn’t follow. He also said the victims and their families are let down by the independent report because it fails to hold anybody at The Citadel accountable for the abuse they suffered.
The school released the report at a news conference in the Holliday Alumni Center.
Columbia attorney Joe McCulloch, who served as a liaison between the board and the independent review team; reviewer Gary Margolis of Margolis, Healy & Associates; and Citadel Board of Visitors Chairman Doug Snyder were present at the release. Ann Franke of Wise Results LLC, who represented another review firm, participated by teleconference.
Margolis said at the news conference that the college should have taken a “multidisciplinary” approach to handling the complaint, bringing in more campus experts to decide how best to handle the allegation.
Instead, the report stated, Brandenburg acted unilaterally, treating the complaint as “a claim to be settled, not as a larger community issue.”
Brandenburg did not return a call for comment Friday.
The school launched the review in August. It examined the decision-making process that occurred in 2007 after a teen accused ReVille of watching porn and masturbating with young boys at The Citadel’s summer camp five years earlier.
The school closed the matter without notifying police, following an internal investigation that yielded no action.
ReVille, a Citadel graduate and one of the camp’s counselors, went on to molest a number of boys. He is serving a 50-year prison term after he pleaded guilty in June to molesting 23 boys in the Charleston area.
The State Law Enforcement Division determined that there was no criminal wrongdoing on The Citadel’s part.
3 key points
McCulloch said he thinks school leaders today would report a similar allegation to law enforcement officials.
But he and the other reviewers said that the situation with which the school was faced was murky, and it wasn’t clear whether it should have been reported.
Franke said the question on whether to report was complicated by three issues:
Five years had passed between the time the abuse occurred and when it was reported to The Citadel.
The victim was a child when it happened, but he was 18 and legally an adult when he reported it.
The family didn’t want it reported.
McLeod said he disagrees with Franke’s last point. His client asked only that his privacy be protected, not that The Citadel refrain from reporting the allegation to law enforcement officials.
McCulloch said he has experience with sexual-abuse cases, and he thinks it remains unclear whether law enforcement officials could have moved forward with prosecuting the case if The Citadel had reported it. He also said the victim and his family could have reported it themselves.
Civil vs. criminal
McLeod said, “The report is silent with regard to accountability, which is troublesome because without accountability there will be no prevention.” The families feel strongly that had the people in charge at The Citadel practiced what they preached, innocent children would not have been abused, he said.
He also said he doesn’t believe that Brandenburg thought the complaint was a civil matter, not a criminal one, as the reviewers stated. He pointed to a 2007 email from Brandenburg, which the school released in 2011, in which Brandenburg states that he is hopeful that by conducting an investigation on behalf of the school, “no formal investigation — criminal or civil — will occur.”
“The report attempts to clear the Board of Visitors and President Rosa based on the faulty conclusion that Mr. Brandenburg asserted this incident was limited to a potential civil claim,” McLeod said.
What did Rosa know?
Margolis said that Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa wasn’t aware of the details of the allegation reported in 2007 until 2011. He had not read the transcript from Brandenburg’s interviews, Margolis said. “He was not presented with that level of detail.”
Rosa has the reputation of being an expert on sexual assault. Before The Citadel hired him in 2006, he had been hired by the Pentagon to clean up a sexual-assault scandal at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Snyder said the board stands by Rosa and his mission to change the culture at the military college. The board has “confidence in his professionalism, integrity and character.”
Snyder said the board received the report Thursday, and members haven’t had much time to digest it. But they plan to follow all of its recommendations.
Franke’s report offered recommendations on how the The Citadel should move forward, including revising a policy on the protection of minors, continuing trainings on sexual abuse and appointing a half-time child-protection officer.
“We’ll implement the recommendations, but we don’t yet know the details,” Snyder said.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.