Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced on Thursday that the investigation regarding allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by former faculty and students at St. George’s School has concluded.

The investigation by the Rhode Island State Police was initiated in November 2015. St. George’s then found themselves on the front cover of The Boston Globe on December 15th on allegations of sexual abuse dating back to the 1970’s.

More than 500 people then signed a petition and letter started by SGS For Healing and dozens of alumni came forward claiming they were also abused in response to The Boston Globe‘s December 15th article.

The Rhode Island State Police Detective Bureau said today that they have conducted an extensive investigation into all allegations it received, some dating back as early as 1970.

The Rhode Island State Police have provided us with the following information;

The investigation focused on allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by seven (7) former faculty members, one (1) current employee and three (3) former students upon students at the school.  In addition, the investigation examined allegations that the current and prior school administrations did not properly report instances of alleged assault to the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF).

Numerous interviews were conducted with former students as well as current and former faculty.   Throughout the investigation, anyone with information regarding the reported allegations or any alleged criminal misconduct at the school, was encouraged to contact investigators with the State Police.  Through the course of the investigation, detectives also received information of past instances of alleged sexual assault and misconduct involving students as well as faculty at the school as recent as 2005 and thoroughly investigated all received information.  In addition, numerous documents and files were reviewed as a result of executing a court-authorized search warrant at the school.  Throughout the investigation, members of the Rhode Island State Police worked closely with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.

In total, the Rhode Island State Police and Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office interviewed approximately 40 witnesses, including alleged victims of sexual assault. The Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office were also in contact with attorneys representing former students and reported victims of these incidents.

Each allegation brought forward was thoroughly reviewed and investigated. After a careful review of the allegations, evidence and applicable statutes by members of the Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, it has been determined that the State cannot proceed with criminal charges at this time.  The determination was based on existing Rhode Island General Laws, as well as the laws which defined the alleged conduct at the time it occurred.

In determining what criminal laws were applicable to the allegations, factors considered were the date of the offense, the age and sex of the victim, the nature of the act, and the willingness of the victim to come forward and prosecute.  The statute of limitations applicable to the enforcement of these was carefully examined.

The laws on sexual assault are much different today than existed at the time many of the reported incidents took place. For example, the statutes defining first degree sexual assault were not enacted until 1979, and common law rape required the sexual assault to take place between man and woman.

The investigation also centered upon allegations of failure by the school administration to report the abuse or neglect to DCYF.  In 1979, the legislature provided for misdemeanor penalties for those who failed to report abuse or neglect.  In 1984, the legislature expanded the definition of abuse and neglect to include sexual assault.  These allegations of failure to report could not be charged due to that fact that in some instances the alleged failure to report was not defined as a criminal offense until 1979, and in other instances, the prosecution of any allegations would be time barred by the three year statute of limitations that existed for the specific crime.  While some states have a tolling provision for the statute of limitations for failure to report, Rhode Island’s statute does not include such a provision.  Therefore, the alleged criminal conduct must have been charged within three years of an individual learning of the alleged sexual abuse.

Unfortunately for those who came forward, they will not be able to seek justice within the criminal justice system due to the applicable statutes defining conduct and statute of limitations.

We encourage any victims who have not reported to date to come forward, and if allegations are made, they will be thoroughly investigated.

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

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