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Trooper's report at odds with PEA account

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 16. 2017 3:06AM
Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway said Tuesday that New Hampshire State Police had conducted an investigation into the two Phillips Exeter Academy deans and their compliance with a state law that requires anyone to report suspected child abuse. 

A statement issued Tuesday by the leader of Phillips Exeter Academy in defense of two deans is at odds with a 2016 New Hampshire State Police report as to whether the two had violated state law requiring adults to report suspected cases of child abuse.

The issue — how cooperative with the police investigation were Melissa Mischke and Arthur J. Cosgrove.

In a nine-paragraph letter distributed Tuesday, Phillips Exeter Principal Lisa MacFarlane said the two deans “cooperated fully during an investigation into whether they should have, but did not, report to the authorities the underlying assault investigation.”

But Trooper Mallory Littman contradicts MacFarlane’s statement in a four-page investigative report.

Littman wrote: “During the follow-up investigation, Cosgrove and Mischke were given various opportunities to provide statements about their interactions with” the two students ... Neither Cosgrove nor Mischke have provided statements as to their involvement.”

Littman was investigating whether the deans violated the Child Protection Act when they did not report a possible sexual assault involving two Phillips Exeter students.

The Union Leader provided a copy of the police report to Phillips Exeter spokesman Robin Giampa.

“It was in January 2017 that they met with Assistant County Attorney Patti LaFrance, County Attorney Pat Conway, Trooper Littman (and perhaps another officer),” Giampa said in an email. “Their lawyers also conferred with Ms. LaFrance and Ms. Conway on other occasions, and submitted supporting materials.”

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office is gathering information to determine what if any action it can or should take in the matter, Associate Attorney General Jane Young said.

In late 2016, state police drafted misdemeanor arrest warrants against Cosgrove and Mischke.

But Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway opted not to bring charges. On Tuesday, Conway said she didn’t believe she could prove the case in court, citing witness cooperation issues, the strength of the evidence and some “sensitive issues.”

Phillips Exeter, as well as other prestigious preparatory schools, has been reeling over the past few years under allegations of sexual assaults by faculty — with some charges decades-old — and cover-ups by school officials.

The case at hand, however, was more recent and involved two students.

Last year, police brought a misdemeanor sexual assault charge against Chukwudi Ikpeazu. He was accused of fondling a student against her wishes in 2015. She was 17 at the time; he was 18.

Exeter police filed charges against Ikpeazu, but the county attorney eventually dropped the charges.

According to the state police report obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader, the girl’s school adviser, Amy Schwartz, contacted Cosgrove. On Oct. 13, 2015, a meeting was held between the girl, another student, Schwartz, Cosgrove and Mischke.

Michael W. Jones, an alumnus of Phillips Exeter, supplied the report to the Union Leader. He said he obtained it from a reliable source, but could not reveal the person.

The issue is now more of a cover-up, he said.

“It’s very Nixonian. It’s odd,” Jones said. “Let’s be honest. They need to tell the truth. It’s easily remedied — tell the truth, move on and get the help you need.”

He also found fault with a statement in MacFarlane’s letter that the two deans had “a good-faith belief” that no abuse had occurred. Jones said the Child Protection Law does not call for those required to report to make any sort of judgment. Their job is to report and let authorities investigate, he said.

The state police report says Littman interviewed faculty members Russell Weatherspoon and Barbara Desmond, and Dean of Multicultural Affairs Rosanna Salcedo. She was unable to interview school psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber, but attributed that to doctor-patient confidentiality.

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