Saturday, February 13, 2016

More Damning Information Regarding Park Tudor's Handling Of Kyle Cox's Sexual Abuse Of Student

Several Indianapolis Star reporters contributed to a new report this weekend on Park Tudor's mishandling of the sexual abuse of one of its students at the hands of its former boys basketball coach Kyle Cox. The accumulated evidence reflects very poorly on the school administrators and, in particular, the Ice Miller attorney they relied upon for counsel. Some people have thought the Department of Child Services must bare some responsibility for the mishandling of the case, but I'm not convinced the facts point in that direction.

DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura faults the school for waiting a full day before reporting the sexual abuse of one of their students to child welfare workers at her agency. It also seems clear the school withheld the most damning information from its notification to DCS--namely, that Cox had exchanged sexually explicit images with the student, including photos of his penis and nude images of the 15-year girl and another minor. What DCS knew was that Cox had exchanged inappropriate messages with the student, that he had been immediately fired when the school learned of the exchanges and that the school was taking measures to ensure the safety of the student.

The school's approach was to enter into a confidential termination agreement with Cox, allow him to take his laptop computer home to remove any personal items from it, presumably the explicit messages and images he had exchanged with the student and allow him to move on with his reputation intact and able to land a job at any number of other schools in Indiana, which would have gladly hired him based upon his successful record coaching boys basketball at the school.

DCS makes clear that it did not learn until December 22 after the school had closed for the holidays that sexually explicit images had been exchanged between Cox and the student. The child welfare agency learned that information from an outside counselor who was counseling the victim. DCS claims it began its investigation that day and included Sgt. Larry Cahill of the sex crimes unit of IMPD in its investigation.

According to The Star report, word of the extent of the sexual abuse allegations had spread quickly among students and parents within the Park Tudor Community. A group of parents became so concerned that they penned a letter to Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry demanding action. Curry received that letter on December 30. "Rather than investigate the matter fully and share it with law enforcement, the school allowed Mr. Cox to resign and then buried the issue," the letter said. "Mr. Cox should not be allowed to be around young people in any official role. In the eyes of many parents at Park Tudor, he is a sex offender and should be registered and followed as one. Criminal action has taken place, and we urge you to fully investigate this matter. "Your actions can prevent another young person from being harmed," the letter said.

Apparently Curry responds more quickly to allegations made about child sexual abuse by adults in the community when it's parents of Park Tudor than he does other persons who contact his office. He contacted IMPD that very day, which also coincided with a third report about the incident being made to DCS. The Star says that was also the day IMPD opened a criminal investigation. It's unclear what Sgt. Cahill had been doing since he knew about the criminal allegations on December 22 according to DCS. Now where DCS looks bad is the fact that it did not speak to the victim's father, who first reported the sexual abuse to the school on December 14, until January 4 of this year. An IMPD officer didn't visit the school to speak to officials until January 5. The person who made the report to DCS on behalf of Park Tudor told IMPD she had gotten the information from the school's attorney, Mike Blickman. When IMPD and DCS attempted to talk to Blickman, he hid behind the attorney-client privilege, even though he knew about them and had taken personal possession of the sexually explicit messages and images between Cox and the student by transferring the information to a computer at his office.

While all this foot-dragging was occurring, Cox had continued communicating with at least one male student, whom he encouraged to "mess up" the victim for spreading what he considered defamatory information about him. That student physically assaulted the victim at the school after students returned from their holiday break before law enforcement would finally execute a search warrant on school officials and Cox on January 7. It was only when police executed those search warrants that Blickman finally agreed to turn over evidence of the crime he by that point had held in his possession for at least three weeks.

There's more damning information about Blickman's conduct. Police didn't question the school's head master until January 21, a full 37 days after the initial report and nearly a month after DCS says it included IMPD Sgt. Cahill in its investigation. Dr. Matthew Miller took his own life two days later, although school officials would claim afterwards it had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation. Park Tudor parents complained to The Star that Blickman and other school officials lied to them during a meeting with them on January 28. According to the parents in attendance at the meeting, Blickman denied that Cox had been allowed to take his computer home with him to remove personal items from it before returning it the following day. Parents told The Star other details shared with them by Blickman and school officials at that meeting were contradicted by the federal complaint filed against Cox at the time of his arrest earlier this month.

Blickman's firm is standing behind his actions, and he has lawyered up with high-profile criminal defense attorney, Jackie Bennett. I've had the opportunity to speak to a number of attorneys about Blickman's action. To a tee, they agree he should be prosecuted for obstructing justice. In the course of his representation of Park Tudor, he learned of a crime committed by Kyle Cox against one of his client's students. The school, not Cox, was Blickman's client. He had no reason to withhold and not disclose evidence of a crime committed by one of the school's employees to the appropriate authorities. By not having the school fully and immediately report what it knew had transpired between Cox and the student, he was advising them not to follow the state law regarding the school's reporting responsibilities. He made the school and himself an accessory after the fact because of his actions in my opinion. All of those same attorneys, by the way, who believe Blickman should be prosecuted also agree that he won't be prosecuted because he's an Ice Miller attorney. That should tell you how much faith rank-and-file attorneys have in the fairness of our criminal justice system.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the most in-depth timeline to date. It is thorough and names all the adults and those who misused their authority in not reporting nor investigating timely. The only way abuse will stop is when all parties justify their actions with full transparency for the public. Without this, it will continue.

Anonymous said...

I suppose Ice Miller won't have any internal conversations that we will ever hear of and that anything they might have to say for public consumption won't be worth knowing? It is not just private schools who lie/hide things and more often than not they get away with it. Folks should know that government schools are full of various corruptions...not just ISTA sorts. Good teachers know this and it is a partial reason why they leave.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the attorney for Ice Miller who knowingly possessed and/or transferred child porn is held criminally responsible for his actions. Being trained in law, he of all people knew better. As for his improper advice to the school, telling them to withhold full disclosure of what was known to them, I believe he should be punished appropriately by The Supreme Court by taking whatever action is proper regarding his law license.

The conduct of that attorney was more than reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

Schools and their captive police forces go to great lengths to hide criminal behavior of students and staff. They want to avoid bad publicity. I know this from experience when I was a school board member.

Anonymous said...

Let's remember,this is Indiana. There is a very good chance Blickman will not receive the amount of scrutiny and discipline for his actions as Mr Ogden. Criticize a judge within an e-mail and they throw the book at you. If you actually engage in criminal behavior, you're most likely to receive the key to the city,more government contracts and a lovely banquet.

Maybe Ice Miller knows what makes the movers and shakers in this town tick? Perhaps that's why this law firm is so effective? I can only speculate.

If Blickman didn't take the pictures as an attempt to whitewash the investigation,perhaps he simply had taken them for his own personal edification?

Anonymous said...

I believe protocol for propoerly handling these types of situations is well documented from a school administration perspective. It appears that North Central HS (NCHS) very recently took the proper steps in a very recent incident that is not exactly the same but would fall into the same general category of offense.

I have tried to have an open mind but I just don't understand why common sense is absent in this situation, other than what increasingly appears to be a cover up by the decision makers involved. I don't believe I (or most rational adults) would accept the advice of anyone, attorneys included, that would suggest letting the alleged predator resign and move on with a seemingly clean record to another school. If there is any doubt on the innocence or guilt, put the alleged predator on Admin leave, immediately, but immediately and properly report any/all findings/allegation to the authorities, focus on assisting the victim(s) and protecting and providing a safe leaning environment for the rest of the students and assist authorities with the investigation. If no doubt as to guilt given the evidence (which it appears enough evidence was provided), fire the scumbag then immediately start the reporting, assisting and healing process. Seems like the biggest risk there would be a wrongful termination if in the end the coach was not in fact guilty but that is a risk nI would be wiling to take if what we are reading is remotely true.

I agree with the poster above, the Ice attorney will probably slither out from under this mess given his and Ice's money, power and influence. The PT decision makers, other than the Headmaster, (if knowingly involved in the decisions we are seeing unfold) are likely doing whatever possible to protect their seemingly pristine reputations, the school's reputation and their ongoing $20k per year per student tuition dollars to throw the now deceased Headmaster and attorney under the bus. But most of this mess could have been avoided by using basic common sense and doing the right thing first. If that path would have been followed (assuming there are not more layers of wrongdoing to come) I believe the focus would now be focused on helping the victim(s), prosecuting the predator, and getting back to stabilizing the leaning environment for the rest of the students to prepare for their futures.

Instead, the layers of the onion continue to be peeled back and more dirt is uncovered about who knew what when and how they decided try and apparently cover the whole ordeal up. It does not take any money, power, or influence to do the right thing but it does take an enormous amount of all three to get yourself, school and others out of a mess like this if what we are reading is even remotely true for doing the wrong thing.

This could certainly be the basis for the next season of American Crimes as if the last season does not parallel the inner workings of a private school cover up in Indianapolis enough.

Anonymous said...

Would be interesting to know what happened to Cox's computer after the school received it back from him. Did it go from Cox straight to the police or back to PT? If PT, wonder if it was wiped clean. This 31-year old creep has sure ruined a lot of lives; anyone know if he had any prior history of chasing young girls?