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New suit says St. Paul's was a haven for predators, alleges encounters with NYC prostitutes

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 04. 2018 9:52AM
New allegations against St. Paul's School in Concord in a lawsuit filed by two alumni. (UNION LEADER FILE)

Two St. Paul’s School alumni filed suit against their Concord alma mater this week, one detailing a lurid sexual encounter with New York City prostitutes orchestrated by a school administrator. The other alleges abuse and propositions by several St. Paul’s faculty, including a teacher who went on to become a prominent Massachusetts congressman.

The allegations are the latest for the elite preparatory school, which has weathered three years of criticism over sexual improprieties and remains under criminal investigation by New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court. The latest allegations stretch back to the 1960s and early 1970s; only one of the alleged perpetrators is alive, according to the school.

The teacher who went on to become a Massachusetts congressman — Gerry Studds — was a Democrat who served 11 terms in the U.S. House and was the first openly gay congressman. Studds taught at St. Paul’s in the late 1960s and died in 2006.

“At the time of (their) enrollment, St. Paul’s was a haven for sexual predators and the school was negligent in failing to prevent the sexual abuse of its students,” the suit reads.

School officials informed parents, alumni and others about the lawsuit in a letter on Wednesday.

“Their stories are terrible. We are truly sorry for the pain they experienced and for any failure of the School to protect them,” trustees Chairman Archibald Cox Jr. wrote.

Trip to brothel

One of the plaintiffs is Palm Beach, Fla., resident George Chester Irons, 60, who is a former trustee, alumni fund chairman, alumni association president and donor to the school.

He details a bizarre trip to New York with an administrator, Coolidge Mead Chapin, who was nicknamed “The Toad.”

In the winter of 1973-74, Chapin took Irons and three other St. Paul’s students — his proteges were nicknamed “toadies” — to a New York brothel where he arranged for prostitutes for the four boys and instructed participants what to do.

In the frenzied atmosphere, Chapin yelled commands such as “do it this way, no this way” and “switch,” the lawsuit reads.

“Prostitutes were switched back and forth between students in continual group sex,” the suit reads. Afterward, Chapin paid the madame with cash, the suit reads.

“It was almost like (Chapin) was a porn director shooting a porn film,” Irons said in an interview Thursday. Chapin was at St. Paul’s for decades. “He may be the most prolific child sexual abuse predator in the history of New England boarding schools.”

Irons was left “terrified, demoralized and numb,” the suit reads. In an interview, he said he suffered from depression for decades until he disclosed the incident to a therapist in 2014.

Unwelcome propositions

Alumnus Keith Mithoefer, a resident of Vermont, claims he was the subject of suggestive language and propositions from several teachers.

During the 1968 school year, Studds was a new teacher at St. Paul’s and invited Mithoefer to go out to eat in Concord.

Studds pulled the car down a deserted road and gave Mithoefer a cigarette, which he said he smoked to appear cool.

They spoke about politics and civil rights, then Studds put his hands on Mithoefer’s crotch and propositioned him, the suit claims.

“Mithoefer felt betrayed, terrified, and trapped and asked to go home,” the suit reads.

Studds later represented Cape Cod in Congress. He won reelection even after the U.S. House censured him in 1983 for an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old page.

According to the school, Studds and former Rector William Oates have not been named in previous reports by school-hired investigators into sexual abuse on campus. Oates is accused of trying to cover up efforts by faculty adviser Lou Grant to engage Mithoefer in sexual activity.

Associate Attorney General Jane Young said her office was made aware of the lawsuit Wednesday by a third party.

“That’s certainly a document we would review in our ongoing investigation,” she said. “Even though they’re under investigation, the school didn’t have the courtesy to send it to us.”

School spokesman Sarah Aldag said “we continue to cooperate fully with the investigation.”

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