Citadel's dark secret

The Citadel held its last summer camp in 2006. Five years later, the program is again in the news.

Smiling young faces line the pages of The Citadel's summer camp yearbooks, alongside tales of friendships forged, achievements earned and lessons learned.

Swimming and grilling at the beach. Marching on the parade grounds. Shooting hoops. Tossing footballs. Chowing down at the mess hall. Bright memories; good times.

Behind closed doors, however, darker activities were twisting and staining the lives of boys who fell victim to predators they'd been told to trust.

Scott Carasik was just 12 years old when he watched his roommate unravel, break down and bail from the camp after less than a week in 2001. Only later did Carasik learn the boy had been sexually assaulted by Marine Capt. Michael Arpaio, a volunteer at the camp.

And then there was Louis "Skip" ReVille, the senior camp counselor who held Bible study sessions with young boys in his room. With the door closed. At night.

"He was just creepy," Carasik recalled. "He would just look at you a certain way, and you knew he had weird thoughts going around in his head."

ReVille's activities apparently went unnoticed or unchallenged by the camp's administration, much as Arpaio's misdeeds had in prior years.

The summer camp shut down in 2006, just one month after The Citadel doled out $3.8 million to settle lawsuits by five former campers who alleged Arpaio had sexually abused them. With the program shuttered and the court cases closed, school officials seemed content to allow the camp to fade into history.

The summer camp, however, is getting a fresh round of scrutiny in the wake of ReVille's recent arrest on multiple molestation charges and a new lawsuit filed against The Citadel over Arpaio's crimes.

School officials are facing tough questions about their operation of the camp, fueled by revelations that The Citadel failed to tell police about a 2007 complaint from a former camper who accused ReVille of masturbating with young boys on campus. Nothing came of the complaint, and ReVille went on to molest at least nine boys while working as a coach and teacher in the area, authorities have said.

Charleston police and State Law Enforcement Division agents are investigating that complaint, and the school has asked state Attorney General Alan Wilson to review its handling of the incident.

The Citadel said it could not answer several questions from The Post and Courier last week about the camp's operation because many documents were in the hands of school attorneys and inaccessible.

Former camp director William Bates and deputy director Jenni Garrott, who still work at the school, declined to comment for this story.

A taste of Citadel life

Former Citadel President Gen. Mark Clark founded The Citadel Summer Camp in 1957 on the principle that "Youth is America's most precious asset."

The camp, primarily sports-oriented, was designed to give boys ages 10 to 15 a taste of The Citadel in an effort to build character and recruit future cadets. Clark also saw the camp as a way to use school facilities year-round and provide cadets with summer job opportunities.

The camp had "a military flavor," with marching and uniforms, but the same strict system cadets operated under didn't bind attendees. Discipline and structure were prized, but the main goal was having fun in an atmosphere of "team play, safety and individual excellence," school officials said.

The sleepover camp proved popular, drawing boys from across the country and beyond for activities such as swimming, tennis, sailing and air rifle marksmanship. The camp soon expanded from a one-week session to two three-week sessions.

By 1984, some 12,000 boys had attended the camp. The camp's numbers swelled even more when it opened to girls in 1998.

The director at the time was Bates, a Citadel graduate and 20-year Army veteran. He and Garrott supervised a large staff of counselors, assistants and counselors in training, most of who were teens or young adults, according to court papers.

At night, the adult directors went home and counselors supervised the camp, said Carasik, who spent four years as a camper and two as a counselor.

One of those counselors was Michael Joseph Arpaio Jr.

Disturbing allegations

On paper, Arpaio seemed a perfect role model. He distinguished himself athletically and academically as a cadet, making the dean's list five times. A battalion commander, Arpaio won the MacArthur Cadet of the Year Award in 1997, his senior year. He joined the Marine Corps after graduation but kept returning to work at The Citadel's camp over the summer, as he had done since 1995.

While there, Arpaio reportedly sexually abused young boys, gave them alcohol and drugs, showed them X-rated videos, strutted around naked and had them watch as he had sex with a woman, according to lawsuits.

The Citadel has said it immediately dismissed Arpaio in 2001, after word surfaced that he had been molesting children at the camp. But others have raised questions about just how much the school knew.

Lawsuits filed against Arpaio and The Citadel allege that various school employees visited Arpaio at his apartment in Emerald Isle, N.C., in 1998 and 1999 and "became aware of the inappropriate propensities of Mr. Arpaio regarding minor children, alcohol and drugs." The lawsuits allege that staff at the camp also knew about his activities but took no action.

Georgetown attorney Edward Bell -- who represents six former campers who have sued the school -- did not return phone calls last week seeking more details on what the other staffers witnessed or knew about Arpaio.

A former camp counselor also accused The Citadel of inaction, in comments made to an online Facebook forum for Citadel camp alumni. The counselor stated that he and other staff members knew Arpaio was up to no good and reported it to the school administration, but nothing was done. The Citadel has denied that was the case.

The Marine Corps finally got involved after a camper's family complained directly to the Pentagon about Arpaio's crimes, Bell has said.

End of an era

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.

The initial lawsuits were settled in August 2006, with the State Insurance Reserve Fund covering $3.3 million of the tab. The remaining $500,000 came from The Citadel Trust, which is funded through donations and gifts.

Following that debacle, the camp's future lay in the hands of the school's governing Board of Visitors, composed of 11 graduates of The Citadel. Acting on the recommendation of President Lt. Gen. John Rosa's administration, the board voted in September 2006 to abolish the summer camp, ending its 49-year run.

A press release issued by the school three months later announced the camp was being closed because it had outlived its usefulness. The release mentioned several factors, from shorter summer vacations to a need to perform work on the barracks. There was no mention of the Arpaio matter.

New claims surface

The camp might have faded from memory altogether had the ReVille case not exploded in late October, leading to questions about his time at the camp, from 2000 to 2004. That led The Citadel to reveal that ReVille, now charged with molesting nine boys in Mount Pleasant, previously had been accused of hosting pornography and masturbation sessions in his room with campers in 2002.

The incident came to light only after The Post and Courier forced the school through the Freedom of Information Act to release hundreds of pages of documents on the college's internal investigation.

The documents included ReVille's job applications and forms he signed acknowledging the counselor code of conduct, which prohibited sexual activity in any form.

On his 2001 application, ReVille indicated that he preferred to work with campers between the ages of 12 and 14, the same age group he is accused of targeting for molestation.

On another application, in 2003, his response to a question regarding his special qualifications to serve as a counselor read more like an online dating post: "5'11; brown hair; brown eyes; athletic; can cook, recite poetry, dance; enjoys walks on the beach."

Former camper Carasik said most of the counselors were good guys, but a number of people had misgivings about ReVille.

"We just had a weird feeling about him," he said. "He always had kids going up to his room in the middle of the night for Bible study."

It wasn't unusual for campers to hang out and chat or toss a football with counselors in the evenings, Carasik said. But that was always out in the open. ReVille's sessions were not, he said.

All this was going on at roughly the same time the Arpaio matter was blowing up. But Carasik couldn't recall anyone formally complaining about ReVille, and he's unsure what, if anything, other counselors knew about the closed-door sessions.

"I don't know why," Carasik said, "but nobody ever seemed suspicious of that."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.