July 05. 2017 8:44PM

West High rape victim may sue

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader


A 14-year-old student was raped in 2015 in an alcove at Manchester High School West. (DAVID LANE/STAFF)

MANCHESTER — The school district is facing a legal claim stemming from the rape of a Manchester High School West student two years ago in a remote school hallway, her lawyer confirmed Wednesday.

Nashua lawyer David Gottesman said he contacted the Office of the Manchester City Solicitor last week to discuss a potential claim over the September 2015 rape. He represents the victim, who was 14 at the time.

News of the rape was kept under wraps until late last month, when Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan announced that Bryan Wilson, who was 17 and a West student at the time of the rape, had been convicted in a jury trial. Wilson was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison.

Prosecutors have said that school officials knew that the hallway was used by students to skip classes and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Wilson also had a history of juvenile crimes, including arson, and school disciplinary problems.

If a lawsuit is filed, it would pit Manchester schools against a girl who has said the rape left her “broken and shattered.”

“There are no words to describe the suffering this tragic event has caused me,” the victim said in an impact statement read by a court advocate during Wilson’s June 20 court hearing.

“I didn’t feel human. I spent months feeling like a used toy,” she said. She remains in therapy.

In a telephone interview, Gottesman would not discuss details of the potential claim.

On Nov. 23, 2015, his office sent a notice of possible claim against the Manchester School District. Notices were sent to the school district’s business administrator, Karen DeFrancis, and Manchester City Clerk Matthew Normand.

The notice is required under state law when a municipality or school district is being sued. The Office of City Solicitor includes a risk management office, which handles claims against both city government and the school district.

Both are self-insured.

“We have been awaiting the outcome of the criminal matter before proceeding with the civil matter,” Gottesman said.

Gottesman said he offered last week to meet with City Solicitor representatives before he files a claim. He has not received a response to his offer. It’s possible a claim could be filed in federal court, he said.

“It’s been a terrible ordeal for her and for her family. They’re still struggling,” Gottesman said.

During the sentencing hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North, the prosecutor in the case described the 14-year-old as a somewhat naive girl who befriended Wilson. Wilson carefully cultivated the friendship until he got her alone and raped her, Assistant County Attorney Sarah Warecki said.

“A child goes to school expecting to be safe,” Warecki said.

mhayward@unionleader.com