Documents from an anonymous source forwarded to The Ithacan have brought to light a case of sexual abuse from 2001, where Ithaca College president Shirley M. Collado was accused of one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse for an encounter with a patient while she was working as a therapist.
Collado pleaded nolo contendere — no contest — to the case which was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. This meant that she did not admit guilt, but received a sentence as if she had pleaded guilty.
The prosecution said Collado engaged in a sexual relationship with the patient, whose name is not identified in The Ithacan, from May to October 2000 that began when Collado was treating the patient at The Center at the Psychiatric Hospital in Washington D.C.
Collado denies this claim.
“In light of the resurfacing of this legal action, I want to unequivocally state now, as I did then, that the accusations in the court documents are simply not true,” she wrote in a message to IC students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni.
Because Collado pleaded no contest, the trial did not occur.
“I didn’t have the legal resources; I didn’t have the financial resources to, and I didn’t have the emotional wherewithal to really take this on the way I would have preferred,” Collado said in an interview with The Ithacan. “So I took a different route. And like many people in this country, young people in this country, people of color, people who don’t have networks, that was me.”
Collado said her husband committed suicide in 2000, which prompted her to take a leave of absence from her position at The Center, according to the message she sent to the IC community.
“And so, I juggled two very strong and opposing instincts: to defend myself aggressively against a painful, false accusation or to devote my energy to healing from my loss,” she said in her message. “My lawyer recommended pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charge so that I could just end the matter quickly and move on.”
According to The Ithacan, the prosecution said the patient was being treated for post-traumatic stress at The Center as she had experienced sexual abuse in the past. Sharon Marcus-Kurn, the prosecutor for the case, wrote that the patient had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and bipolar disorder.
The patient said she and Collado kissed after most of their therapy meetings. The prosecution brought forward the patient’s claim that on two encounters, Collado “fondled the patient’s buttocks and rubbed her inner thigh and pelvic region,” as stated in The Ithacan.
According to the prosecution, the patient said she, Collado and a man had a three-way sexual encounter in September 2000. The Ithacan reported that Collado and the man said this encounter did not occur.
According to Collado, the patient started to live in her home in late summer or fall 2000 and left by November of that year. Collado disobeyed her contract at The Center by living with the patient, according to The Ithacan.
“I, at that point, was sought out by a patient who I had treated before on the unit who really needed my help and was in crisis and didn’t have a place to stay,” Collado said to The Ithacan.
The patient informed Nora Rowny, social services director for The Center, in November 2000 that once she and Collado started living together, they “became more sexually intimate and that she often slept with Dr. Collado.”
The Ithacan wrote that William Hickey, Collado’s lawyer, called the allegations made by the patient “reckless and spurious” in the defendant’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing. Hickey also wrote that the a brain tumor had been identified in the patient and that she had experienced hallucinations.
Judge Frederick Dorsey sentenced Collado to a 30-day suspended sentence, an order to keep away from the patient, 18 months of probation and 80 community service hours, The Ithacan reported.
Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees discussed the search process in a statement to the IC community on Tuesday.
“During the process, we learned of a legal action brought against Dr. Collado, nearly 20 years ago,” the board stated. “We were provided with detailed information regarding this situation, and Dr. Collado was extremely forthright in answering all our questions. Then, as now, she vehemently denied the allegations that were made against her.”
The IC Board of Trustees maintains its “support” of Collado, according to the statement.
“As we stated earlier, Dr. Collado has our full support,” the board said in its message. “She was the right choice when she was named president of Ithaca College last year, and her first six months in office have only reinforced our belief in what an exceptional person and leader she truly is.”