The more serious the crime, it seems, the less a suspect is entitled to fair treatment. How else to explain Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Patrick F. Brady’s decision to dismiss a civil lawsuit against prestigious Milton Academy for its poor handling of yet another alleged sex scandal?
In his holier-than-thou opinion, Brady evaded the core legal question in the case of whether a private prep school should be considered a “membership organization” under Massachusetts common law, and is therefore obliged to treat its students with the fairness owed to members of such organizations. Instead of doing the hard work of figuring out the answer, Judge Brady, offended by the sex, focused on the students’, not the administrators’, conduct.
As “Freedom Watch” reported earlier this year (“Sex and Betrayal at Milton Academy,” This Just In, February 16), the family of 17-year-old former Milton student James Driscoll sued the school for its treatment of James when it came to light that he and four other boys had received oral sex from a 15-year-old female schoolmate. School officials, upon hearing the allegation, called the boys in, got them to confess to what is, in fact, the crime of statutory rape in Massachusetts (the girl being underage), and expelled them. They then turned over the students’ confessions to the police— all without notifying the boys’ parents, let alone legal counsel.
After conducting a self-congratulatory publicity campaign drenched in political correctness, the school asked Judge Brady to dismiss the Driscoll family’s complaint that Milton administrators essentially tricked their son into confessing to a serious crime. Barely suppressing his moral outrage against sexually active youth, Brady ruled, in effect, that school officials had no duty to so much as notify the parents of the boys, nor give the boys opportunity to obtain legal counsel. Why? Because these boys had become “perpetrators of a criminal act of sexual abuse” by creating the “pressurized” situation of a five-to-one guy-to-girl ratio. The upshot of Brady’s decision? Those merely accused of crime forfeit all rights, especially if they’re in high school and have had group oral sex.
Refusing to credit the family’s claim that Milton had acted in an “extreme and outrageous” manner when it obtained and handed over to police statements tantamount to confessions of rape, Brady intoned that such a “claim turns the law upside down.” How so? The family’s characterizations of the administrators’ conduct “more appropriately characterize the conduct of” the boys. And that’s that. In other words, because the boys acted badly, the school may treat them in any way it sees fit — legal rights and obligations be damned. All this without any analysis of the common law doctrine that should control this case. How could a judge make such a fundamental legal error?
(Lawyers for the Driscoll family declined to discuss the case, so it is unclear whether they will appeal.)
The same general phenomenon — of convicting and punishing students accused of sexual misconduct without due process of law — has been in the air lately, most notoriously at Duke University, where, without paying the slightest attention to standards of legal fair play, the district attorney has been pursuing three undergraduate lacrosse players involved in an alleged sexual assault. Sex, it seems, continues to addle the brains of otherwise rational public servants.