BRADENTON – On Tuesday, Judge Peter Dubensky acquitted former Manatee Assistant Superintendent Robert Gagnon of charges that he failed to report allegations of sexual abuse by former Manatee High assistant football coach Rod Frazier. The verdict followed a motion from Gagnon's attorney after the prosecution rested its case that afternoon.
Attorneys for former Manatee High assistant principals Matthew Kane and Gregg Faller, who faced similar charges in the case, also motioned for acquittals, but were denied. Their trial resumed Wednesday, culminating in Kane's acquittal and Faller's conviction of a misdemeanor of failure to report child abuse.
The three administrators had been charged with one felony count and one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse in connection with the Frazier case, in which a female student alleged that she'd been groped on numerous occasions by the coach, while he was working in the school as a parent-teacher liaison.
The student's mother delivered a letter to Manatee High officials, authored by her daughter and detailing her accusations, which included being asked to send Frazier a naked picture of herself, as well as being fondled on numerous occasions (including one where Frazier had arranged a meeting outside the school).
At the time, Florida had recently passed the most aggressive sexual abuse reporting law in the country. It required any school employee who witnessed, were given reports of, or even suspected that abuse may be occurring to report it to a hotline monitored by the Department of Children and Families.
The district instead launched "internal" investigations of the alleged incidents, and it was not until the story was broke by the local press that law enforcement was made aware of the alleged crimes.
When current superintendent Rick Mills came on board last year – after authorities had already investigated the case and recommended arrests to the state attorney's office – he ordered newly-hired district investigator Troy Pumphrey to investigate the allegations in order to determine whether there were violations of district policy, irrespective of legal statutes.
At the conclusion of the investigation, Mills followed the advice of his disciplinary committee and recommended that all four of the employees charged in the case (Gagnon, Faller, Kane and OPS investigator Deborah Horne, who entered a pre-trial diversion program) along with district attorney Scott Martin be suspended indefinitely. Martin and Horne resigned, while the other employees' contracts lapsed in June of last year, without being renewed.
In a statement given in a press release on Wednesday afternoon, Mills said:
“The criminal trial that concluded today was the result of an investigation performed by the Bradenton Police Department and brought forward by the State Attorney’s office. The school district takes no position regarding the findings rendered by the judge in those cases.
"The school district’s investigation of Mr. Gagnon, Mr. Faller and Mr. Kane was based on allegations of employee misconduct which violated school district policies and procedures. There is no correlation between the disposition of the criminal cases and the district’s internal investigation or the administrative hearings resulting from those findings.”
Click here for a PDF of the Bradenton Police Department's Criminal Investigation report on the Frazier case.
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