August 30, 2012

Alumnus Embroiled in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Involving Prep School

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Scott Smith ’79 has found himself on the opposing side of his younger brother Phillip Smith in a sex abuse case involving Poly Prep Country Day School, a private school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Phillip, who did not attend college and has been battling drug and alcohol abuse for many years now, is now blaming Poly Prep.In a $20 million lawsuit, Phillip and 11 others claim Philip Foglietta, who coached football at Poly Prep from 1966 to 1991, sexually abused them. The lawsuit also states that Poly Prep administrators allegedly knew about the abuse and covered it up to save the reputation of the athletics program at the school. According to the lawsuit, from 1971 to 1977, Phillip Smith was abused hundreds of times by Foglietta both at Poly Prep and off-campus. The athletic director, Harlow Parker, and headmaster, William M. Williams, contacted Phillip Smith and his mother “on many occasions” because of his unexpected absences and failing grades. “In response, Foglietta contacted Parker and/or Williams and told them, in words or substance, to stop harassing Smith,” the lawsuit claims.In addition to alledging that Poly Prep officials knew about the abuse but covered it up, the lawsuit claims that because of the abuse, Phillip Smith developed an addiction to pornography, became depressed and began abusing alcohol and drugs. Scott Smith, who is the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Poly Prep, has refused to take sides. The school filed a motion to dismiss the case because it believes the plaintiffs waited too long from the date of the alleged abuse to file their complaint, according to The New York Daily News.Despite the school’s attempt to shut down the case, on Thursday U.S. District Judge Frederic Block ruled that the lawsuit would move forward.“The scheme alleged is more than just a string of isolated statements,” Block wrote. “Rather, it is a decades-long attempt to conceal the school’s knowledge of Foglietta’s despicable conduct.”Both Scott and Phillip Smith, and Kevin Mulhearn, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the ongoing case. The University’s alumni affairs office also declined to comment on the nature of Scott Smith’s relationship with Cornell, citing the University’s privacy policy.According to The Daily News, Scott Smith said he was “sickened” to learn about the abuse, but felt he should stay uninvolved in his brother’s lawsuit.“The board and I agreed that I should recuse myself from our sincere efforts to resolve this matter,” Smith said. “My stomach will forever churn when I think about what my brother says happened to him and then kept inside him for so many years. I continue to hope that the entire Poly community and, most of all, the victims, can begin the process of healing.”An evidentiary hearing will be held to determine if Poly Prep intentionally hid evidence or knowledge of the abuse. If the school is found to have known about the abuse but hidden it during the period the plaintiffs could have filed a complaint against it, it will not be allowed to claim that too much time has passed since the alleged abuse.The judge said that, although the lawsuit may proceed, the plaintiffs “face several hurdles” in making their case.“Each plaintiff must show that the statement about Foglietta’s lily-white reputation were false and made with knowledge of their falsity,” Block wrote.

Original Author: Utsav Rai

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