Lawsuit contends another cover-up by The Citadel

Marlin Quincy Pryor

A former Citadel summer camper alleges in a new lawsuit that the military college tried to cover up his sexual assault by a counselor years before similar accusations involving child molesters Skip ReVille and Michael Arpaio came to light.

A 10-page civil lawsuit was filed June 24 in Charleston County Circuit Court against The Citadel and Marlin Quincy Pryor, a former counselor who pleaded guilty March 16 to sexually abusing the young camper in 1986. The camper is not named in the lawsuit, and he is identified only as John Doe.

He is seeking unspecified damages through a jury trial to “complete justice and to halt and deter such conduct from taking place at The Citadel ever again,” the lawsuit states, while accusing the school of negligence and a conspiring to cover up the incident.

The lawsuit contains the latest allegations to surface about The Citadel’s now-defunct summer camp. It shut down in 2006, just one month after the school doled out $3.8 million to settle legal claims made by five former campers who accused Arpaio of sexually abusing them. The camp received another round of scrutiny after ReVille’s arrest in 2011 for molesting dozens of young boys in the greater Charleston area, including several who were abused during his time at The Citadel.

Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke Jr. said the John Doe from the most recent lawsuit informed the school through his attorney in 2011 that he had been abused at the camp, which was founded in 1957 to give boys ages 10 to 15 a taste of life at the military college.

“Upon receiving Mr. Doe’s complaint, The Citadel immediately reported it to law enforcement authorities, at which point (the State Law Enforcement Division) initiated the investigation that recently culminated in Mr. Pryor’s guilty plea,” he said. “The Citadel was not aware of Mr. Doe’s complaint until he came forward in December 2011.”

Cooke added that Pryor worked one summer as a camp counselor and was not otherwise employed at the school. The lawsuit claims he was removed from The Citadel Corps of Cadets in December 1987 for “conduct discreditable and unbecoming of a cadet and gentleman.”

SLED charged Pryor in 2014 with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. According to the investigative file released to The Post and Courier on Friday, Pryor was accused of performing oral sex on the camper. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to a lesser charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.

John Doe states in the lawsuit that he reported the sexual abuse in 1986 the morning after it happened, and that his claims were “derided and he and his parents were intimidated by a seemingly impenetrable conspiracy of silence” until Pryor pleaded guilty. The lawsuit alleges that The Citadel, including the camp director and the assistant director at the time, engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the incident and to protect the school’s reputation.

The military college is no stranger to civil suits alleging it tried to hide claims of child sexual abuse. It settled several civil lawsuits stemming from Arpaio pleading guilty in 2003 in military court to charges ranging from indecent assault to providing alcohol to minors. Arpaio, a Marine captain and former cadet, volunteered at the camp.

There have also been about a dozen lawsuits filed against The Citadel or school officials since ReVille’s arrest in October 2011. Some of the suits are on behalf of former campers, while others are on behalf of young men who were abused later and blame The Citadel for not reporting ReVille’s behavior. None has gone to trial yet.

ReVille sexually abused boys at the Citadel camps from 2001 to 2003 and then dozens more as teacher, coach, and Bible study leader at schools and youth programs throughout the Lowcountry. He pleaded guilty in June 2012 to molesting 23 boys over several years, but placed his actual victim count at 43. He is serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.