Lawsuit shines new light on old sex abuse scandal

Attorney alleges private boarding school was 'nest of pedophiles'

By Pat Eaton-Robb
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A federal lawsuit filed last week has reopened a decades-old sex abuse scandal at the exclusive Indian Mountain School in Connecticut.

The suit was filed Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court by William Brewster Brownville, who attended the private boarding school in Salisbury in the 1980s. It provides graphic details of what Brownville alleges was routine abuse of students at the hands of staff, including sex assaults by the now-deceased headmaster and gang rapes.

The school at the time served students in grades five through nine.

"This was literally a nest of pedophiles operating in a community that allowed them unfettered and constant access to a never-ending stream of prepubescent and pubescent boys for their own sexual gratification," said Anthony Ponvert, Brownville's attorney.

Brownville, who Ponvert said has agreed to use his name in connection with the case, was among a group of boys chosen in 1986 as part of a rotation to live in the basement of headmaster Peter Carleton's home, where they were used for his sexual pleasure, according to the lawsuit.

The headmaster would show the boys pornography, encourage them to masturbate with each other and sexually assault them.

Christopher Simonds, an English teacher who has been the subject of other lawsuits against the school, engaged in similar behavior, showing Brownville and other boys pornography, sharing drugs with them and sexually abusing them, according to the lawsuit.

Attempts to reach Simonds, who was fired from the school in 1985, were not successful on Thursday. A phone listed in his name was no longer in service.

Carleton died in 1996.

Brownville, who was between 13 and 16 years old at the time, also alleges he was gang raped on several occasions by members of the school's maintenance department.

The school's trustees and other teachers were aware of the abuse and in some cases witnessed some of it, according to the lawsuit. At parties, Carleton would discuss boys' bodies and his fascination with them, Ponvert said.

Nobody currently working at the school was employed there when the abuse is said to have occurred, Mark Devey, the current head of school, said in an email Thursday.

"We have just seen the allegations and are shocked and disheartened by them," he said. "Because our first priority is to protect the health, safety, and well-being of the students here, it is deeply disturbing to learn that 30 years ago a student at IMS might have been abused. We are looking into these allegations and we take them very seriously."

The school, which according to its website has an endowment of about $9 million, settled five similar lawsuits in the 1990s.

No criminal charges were ever filed. A 50-page police report filed in 1992 graphically detailed alleged abuse by Carleton and Simonds but concluded that the statute of limitations had expired.

At the time, the investigators said school officials refused to provide them contact information for staff and students or explain why Simonds was fired.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Ponvert said Brownville sued because he wants some accountability from the school, where current students pay $52,000 a year for tuition, room and board.

"Nobody has ever been punished or criminally charged as a result of this," said Ponvert. "Nobody has ever been outed, and many of them have gone on to other jobs and other careers that have put them in contact with other potential victims."

Ponvert said he's hopeful that Brownville's decision to go public will prompt other former students to come forward.

Published: Mon, Oct 13, 2014