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Home  |  News  |  Attorney: Bloods gang member assaulted fellow Camden cadet

Attorney: Bloods gang member assaulted fellow Camden cadet
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

 
KERSHAW COUNTY, SC - The 55-year-old Camden Military Academy in Kershaw County had a longstanding culture of violence that led to a young cadet’s brutal rape in 2008 by another cadet who was a Bloods gang member, an attorney charged Monday in federal court.

“This is a case about bullying and sexual assault at the Camden Military Academy, where snitches get stitches,” attorney Marguerite Willis told a jury of eight men and four women in opening arguments at the federal courthouse in Columbia.

She said she will present a half-dozen former cadets as part of an effort to get the jury to find for the former cadet who brought the lawsuit. The civil suit is seeking unspecified damages for psychological trauma – which includes thoughts of suicide, nightmares and severe anxiety – that the former cadet alleged he continues to suffer.

But Duke Highfield, one of five lawyers representing Camden Military and three of its top officials who were named in the lawsuit, urged the jury not to rush to judgment. He said Willis’ version of events doesn’t have all the facts.

“There are aspects of this story you haven’t heard yet,” Highfield said in his opening jury remarks. He said the school and its officials did take action to address bullying.

The lawsuit, filed last year, was brought by a former student, who was 13 at the time of the alleged incident and is now 18. His suit alleges the military school knew or should have known about the severe bullying he was subject to and had a duty to protect him. The State does not generally identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.

Evidence about the Bloods gang member being a cadet is important, Willis told the jury, because it will show that at least one top school official knew that cadet had a violent history, was inclined to violence, but did nothing to remove him from the student body.

It is unclear what happened to the cadet who allegedly assaulted the plaintiff.

Judge Joe Anderson, who is hearing the case, said he will let the jury hear limited testimony about the Bloods’ affiliation. Anderson also said, when the jury was out, that the Bloods are well-known for violence.

“They have a ritual initiation where they have to commit an act of violence to get in (the gang),” he said.

Willis’ first witness was Banks Scarborough, who was chairman of the military academy’s board of trustees until he stepped down in 2008. He is currently a trustee emeritus.

Under Willis’ questions, Scarborough, 84, testified that although board members knew drug abuse and bullying were problems at the academy, they did not formally study the problems, keep detailed records, write an anti-bullying policy or hire a counselor.

Scarborough said board members did discuss drug and bullying problems with top school officials and assumed those officials were addressing any problems.

Highfield told the jury that the three Camden officials named as defendants in the lawsuit were fine educators with excellent experience.

Headmaster Col. Eric Boland had been at the school 30 years and was athletics director before being named headmaster, Highfield said. C.H. Armstrong is a West Point graduate and spent 26 years in the Army, while Command Sgt. Maj. Vertus Wilder spent 30 years in the Army and saw combat.

Boland, Armstrong and Wilder were in court Monday wearing the Camden Military Academy uniforms of polished black shoes, dark green pants and a short-sleeved light green dress shirt.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks or longer. Since it is a civil trial, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove his case by “beyond a reasonable doubt” — the high standard used in criminal trials — but instead by a ”preponderance of the evidence.”

The all-male Camden Military Academy, run by a nonprofit corporation, has grades seven through 12 and is recognized in the S.C. Legislative Manual as the “State Military Academy.

Source: http://www.thestate.com/2013/06/10/2812422/attorney-bloods-gang-member-assaulted.html

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