The attorney for a former Citadel cadet accused of sexual misconduct said his client’s reputation is being tarnished by a staffer at the military college who disagrees with his politics.
Attorney Andy Savage said a female Citadel employee leaked information about the allegations to embarrass his client and taint the endeavors of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The former cadet is active in Republican politics and worked on Santorum’s failed presidential bid.
The woman, whom he didn’t name, is the mother of one of the cadets making the allegations and she has long disliked the suspect and his political leanings, Savage said.
The Citadel revealed Monday that two current cadets had filed reports with campus police accusing the suspect of groping them and subjecting them to unwelcome sexual advances.
One cadet, age 21, told campus police that the suspect reached for his groin during a study session in the suspect’s dorm room in the spring of 2010, when the cadet was a freshman.
Another cadet, also 21, told officers that the suspect pressed up against him in a dorm room and twice jumped on him in a sexual manner while he was sleeping during a February 2011 trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The cadets told authorities they felt powerless to fight off the upperclassman due to their status as freshman “knobs” at the military college.
The Citadel has asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate the allegations. No charges have been filed.
Savage said his client adamantly denies the allegations of sexual improprieties, which some witnesses have discounted.
“If someone writes something on a bathroom wall, that doesn’t make it factual,” Savage said. “And these allegations have no more credibility than a bathroom wall.”
Citadel attorney Dawes Cooke said he and school officials know nothing about a staff member leaking information about the case and Savage has not asked them to look into the matter. Cooke said the school notified SLED of the allegations, as it is required to do under the Jessica Horton Act. The school also notified cadets and staff last week that a recent graduate had been accused of sexual misconduct, as it is required to do under the federal Clery Act.
Neither notice mentioned Savage’s client by name, and the school has not drawn any conclusions as to his guilt or innocence, Cooke said.
“What The Citadel did is nothing more or less than what is exactly required to do by law when the school receives a report like it received,” he said. “It had no intention of embarrassing anybody. It was just following the law.”
Savage said SLED has no jurisdiction to investigate the Washington incidents. And even if it did, the episodes amounted to nothing more than horseplay between cadets at a school that has long ritualized the harassment of freshmen by upperclassmen, he said.
“Harassment of underclassmen is not only tolerated, it is sanctioned,” he said.
Cooke said he had no comment on Savage’s statements regarding the school’s traditions and treatment of freshmen.
Savage said the school’s handling of the matter appears to be “an overreaction to its recent past” and an attempt to demonstrate transparency after being faulted for its actions in similar incidents.
The Citadel recently hired two independent firms to review its handling of a 2007 complaint against former cadet and summer camp counselor Louis “Skip” ReVille.
The college failed to notify authorities that a former camper had accused ReVille of watching porn and masturbating with young boys at the camp five years earlier. ReVille went on to molest dozens of children. He is now serving a 50-year prison term after he pleaded guilty in June to molesting 23 boys in the greater Charleston area.
In addition to notifying SLED and cadets of the latest allegations, The Citadel put the suspect on trespass notice, saying he will be arrested if he sets foot on campus until further notice.
Because the complaints involved alleged crimes, Citadel President John Rosa has barred the former cadet from entering the campus, Hagood Stadium, the school’s beach house on Isle of Palms, College Park or Joe Riley Stadium when the college has events there, according to a letter signed by Thomas J. Elzey, the college’s executive vice president for finance, administration and operations.
“If you should enter upon any of these areas before this letter is rescinded, you will be subject to arrest and prosecution for trespass,” the letter stated. “Govern yourself accordingly!”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.