The Citadel launched its summer camp in the 1950s to help young boys build character and introduce them to life at a military college. But in its final years, much darker lessons were being taught.
The school closed the camp in 2006, a few months after paying $3.8 million to five former campers who said they were molested by a Marine captain who volunteered as a counselor.
Michael Arpaio reportedly fondled the boys, plied them with drugs and booze and exposed them to pornography.
The Citadel was faulted at the time for not doing more to protect the kids and being slow to investigate when the allegations first surfaced.
Now, fresh questions about the school and its camp have emerged with the revelation that The Citadel might have had a chance to expose, early on, another counselor who became an admitted child molester.
Louis “Skip” ReVille, 32, is charged with sexually abusing five boys in Mount Pleasant. He worked alongside Arpaio at the camp for a brief period in 2001, and a parent of one former camper recalled ReVille trying to reassure parents after Arpaio was arrested.
The parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said ReVille promoted himself as a trustworthy person, pointing to his spotless record, solid character and achievements at the school.
“He was very smooth,” she said. “It was all about trust.”
In 2007, however, a former camper told Citadel officials that ReVille watched pornography and masturbated with him and another boy during a camp session five years earlier.
The camper, who was 14 at the time, said the incident occurred in ReVille’s room and they watched porn on his computer. They did not touch each other but did masturbate, school officials revealed Saturday.
At the time ReVille strongly denied the allegation, and an internal investigation failed to corroborate the story, according to a written statement issued by Citadel President John Rosa and Doug Snyder, chairman of the school’s board of visitors.
ReVille had a clean background then, a sterling record and was well-liked at camp, they said.
The school took no action against ReVille and did not report the incident to Charleston police. The camper’s family was very concerned about maintaining their privacy and not having their names publicized, Rosa and Synder said.
“Despite the concerns of the family, whose right to privacy was foremost in our minds, we regret that we did not pursue this matter further,” the pair stated.
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, a Charleston Republican, said any allegation of potential sexual misconduct should be reported to police, and he plans to urge schools to require such action. “That’s really nothing but common sense,” he said.
Clean record no more
After graduating from The Citadel in 2002, ReVille went on to become a coach and educator who worked with hundreds of kids across the Lowcountry at schools, churches and recreation programs.
That ended late last month after his arrest in Mount Pleasant on molestation charges.
ReVille, a father of triplets, is reportedly cooperating with investigators and providing detailed statements of his actions. Based on those statements, Hanahan police have indicated that six more charges are coming involving incidents in their town.
North Charleston and Charleston police are also involved in the investigation, authorities said.
The Citadel is cooperating with the police investigations, school officials said.
“The Citadel family is deeply saddened that one of its alumni has committed, by his own admission, acts that betray the principles and values for which the college stands,” Rosa and Snyder said in their statement.
Investigators said ReVille’s targets were adolescent boys between the ages of 13 and 15 — roughly the same age range served by The Citadel’s summer camp, launched in 1957 by former Citadel President Mark Clark.
ReVille served at the camp from 2000 to 2004, returning for two years after he graduated in 2002. He rose to the rank of senior counselor at a time when the camp played host to more than 500 boys over the summer months, school officials have said. And on paper at least, he seemed an ideal role model for the kids.
“He was a highly respected cadet whose peers elected him chairman of the Honor Court, and at graduation he was presented with the award for excellence in public service,” Rosa and Snyder said in their statement.
ReVille’s time at the camp overlapped for three weeks with the tail end of Arpaio’s run. Like ReVille, Arpaio distinguished himself at the school, winning the MacArthur Cadet of the Year Award in 1997, his senior year. And like ReVille, he kept returning to work at the camp after graduation.
While there, Arpaio allegedly fondled children, gave them alcohol and drugs, showed them X-rated videos and had them watch as he had sex with a woman, according to lawsuits.
The Citadel immediately dismissed Arpaio in 2001, after word surfaced that he had been molesting children at the camp, school officials have said.
An attorney for the affected campers has said the school did nothing to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct. The Marine Corps finally began an investigation into the matter after a former camper’s family complained to the Pentagon, lawyer Edward Bell III has said.
In 2003, Arpaio, then 29, pleaded guilty in military court to charges ranging from indecent assault to providing alcohol to minors. He was sentenced during a court-martial to 10 years of confinement, suspended to 15 months at the Navy brig in Hanahan, authorities said.
Parents of the five campers allegedly molested by Arpaio sued him and The Citadel, claiming the school was negligent because it did not sufficiently monitor the children in Arpaio’s care. The school settled the lawsuits in August 2006.
Six months later The Citadel announced that it was closing down the camp. School officials said the camp had simply outlived its usefulness, but they acknowledged that the Arpaio affair factored into their decision.
It is unclear what became of Arpaio after he left the brig. His name does not show up on the national sex offender registry, likely because he was convicted in a military court.
Details slowly emerge
The camp had long faded from the headlines when The Citadel recently revealed that ReVille had been the subject of a complaint there as well. That revelation came in response to questions from The Post and Courier in the wake of ReVille’s arrest.
The school initially said a camper had accused ReVille of inappropriate behavior, but Citadel officials refused to provide details.
The Post and Courier filed a Freedom of Information request last week for documents and details on the 2007 incident. Jeff Perez, the school’s vice president of external affairs, responded with a statement saying that the school planned to honor a request by law enforcement that no more information on the incident be released.
South Carolina Press Association attorney Jay Bender said the school has no right to withhold the documents, which are a matter of public record.
The school changed course Thursday, with Perez saying the school intended to fully comply with the Freedom of Information Act and is now reviewing the request for documents.
The school still hasn’t provided those documents, but the statement issued Saturday by Rosa and Snyder finally shed some light on the incident in question.
The two men said the school took the issue seriously at the time. The school’s general counsel, Mark Brandenburg of Charleston, immediately launched an investigation, traveling to the former camper and his family to interview them, they said.
The school also reached out to the other former camper who was said to have been in the room with ReVille watching porn. He did not respond to the school’s efforts, said Citadel spokeswoman Charlene Gunnells.
Still, the parent of the camper enrolled when Arpaio and ReVille were counselors said she has been troubled by the school’s reluctance to release information in recent weeks.
The woman said she became ill after learning of the allegations now leveled against ReVille. Given the breadth of the charges and his many stops over the past decade, she is convinced that someone along the way had suspicions about ReVille but didn’t speak up.
“They had to have had some idea, some inkling,” she said. “And they should have come forward and reported it if they had even a notion there was some impropriety.”