Alleged child rape victim files lawsuit against city, supervisor

Keith Gadsden

In a bizarre coincidence, an accused child rapist and his alleged victim wound up working together for the city of Charleston decades after the supposed attack.

The boy, now a 33-year-old man, came forward to police two years ago, telling them what allegedly happened at the St. Julian Devine Community Center on Cooper Street some time between 1985 and 1987, when he was 7 to 9 years old and playing basketball with the city's Parks and Recreation Department: His coach, Keith Gadsden, told him that if he wanted to play as a starter on the team, he would have to take off his pants and lie down on the restroom floor, the police report said.

The alleged victim told police that Gadsden sodomized him. Gadsden, now 48, remains released on bail. He was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a child.

This week the alleged victim filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city, his former supervisor and Gadsden, alleging retaliation for speaking against Gadsden.

Gregg Meyers, an attorney representing the alleged victim, said this case could be the first of several.

"It's pretty rare for a person with a sexual interest in children to have a sexual interest only in a single child," Meyers said. He declined to elaborate or to share further details in this particular case.

The lawsuit says Brenda Shokes, a city recreation manager and the alleged victim's supervisor, became more demanding of the alleged victim after he filed a report against Gadsden. "Work that was satisfactory was no longer satisfactory," the filing says.

Shokes, a current employee, began working for the city in 1977. The alleged victim, who worked as a recreation leader, voluntarily left the department in 2009 after a year of employment and about two months after filing the police report against Gadsden.

Gadsden, who has no criminal record other than this charge, worked for the city part time as far back as 1986. The city fired him the day after police issued a warrant for his arrest in August 2009.

City attorney Sandy Senn said claims of retaliation "are strenuously denied" in this case. Rick Corrigan, an attorney representing Gadsden, stressed that this case addresses the alleged retaliation and not the original sex abuse claim.

"You may find there are some connections or overlapping of facts, but the two cases are completely separate," Corrigan said. "Looking at the lawsuit I'm involved in, I see no liability on the part of the city or its employees."

The alleged victim seeks unspecified damages in the case. The lawsuit says he suffered emotional trauma that required mental health treatment.