April 5, 2011

1st Reardon Trial Begins In Waterbury

A police captain who investigated years old pornographic images found in the former home of Dr. George Reardon, and a man identified as one of the boys depicted in those old photos, testified Tuesday in the opening day of a civil case against St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.

The case is the first of 93 lawsuits filed against the hospital by men and women who say that Reardon, who died in 1998, used the pretext of a child growth study to horribly abuse them decades ago. The hospital is accused of failing to protect children in the doctor's care.

This first lawsuit was brought by a middle aged man who lives and works in Greater Hartford, known in court records as John Doe 2.

West Hartford Police Capt. Donald Melanson, the opening witness, supervised the investigation into the discovery of a cache of photographs at Reardon's former home at 155 Griswold Road.

A new homeowner doing basement renovations found 50,000 to 60,000 slides in a wall. The slides generally depicted underage children in sexually suggestive positions with exposed genitalia, Melanson said.

He said there seemed to be a pattern that the photographs were taken in series. They would begin with the subjects fully clothed, then in various stages of undress, then completely naked. The children would be posed in sexual positions.

Melanson said some slides had notations that identified the subjects. Others had notations that seemed to indicate that Reardon may have been trading images with other pedophiles. He said those notations included the phrases "out for rotation" and "ready for a trade."

He said West Hartford police were able to positively identify about 90 of the children depicted in Reardon's slides. In some cases, he said, the identifications were made after the adults depicted as children in the slides gave police childhood photographs.

One child photographed by Reardon testified Tuesday. He was identified only by the pseudonym William Roe, a 54-year-old man with three brothers and a sister who grew up in suburban West Hartford with his parents.

Roe testified that his mother agreed to have him and his three brothers participate in Reardon's purported growth study after the doctor approached one of the brothers who was recovering from a tonsillectomy at St. Francis Hospital.

He said that after his mother dropped the boys off for their first visit at the hospital, Reardon spoke to all the boys to tell them that they were being asked to participate in a growth study and what would be expected of them. Reardon then returned the boys to his office waiting room and called them in individually for supposed study sessions that lasted from 30 to 45 minutes, Roe said.

when it was his turn, Reardon instructed him to undress and then measured his genitalia, Roe said. He also said the doctor then stimulated him to orgasm and took additional measurements. He said Reardon photographed the entire session.

Roe said he thought Reardon took between 50 and 100 photographs. He said he and his brothers never returned for a second session.

"We all agreed that it was a very strange experience and that we did not want to go back," Roe said. After the boys told their mother of their experience, she agreed that they did not have to return, Roe said.

In his half hour opening statement, Doe's attorney, Michael Stratton, a New Haven trial lawyer from a firm handling dozens of the cases, said St. Francis decided to become a leader in medical research in 1960 with an accompanying commitment to protect participants. He said the hospital failed to conduct even a minimal review of Reardon.

"Dr. Reardon was allowed to use St. Francis as a playground, and he used the study to get children in," Stratton said.

Paul D. Williams, attorney for the hospital, said St. Francis was not in court to defend Reardon, whom Williams called "a master manipulator who fooled and deceived everyone."

"If there is any anger in this case it should be directed at Dr. Reardon," Williams said. "We are all angry at what he did."

Williams asked the jury not to Monday-morning quarterback what St. Francis knew or should have known. The case is being heard by a jury of four men and two women. The presiding judge is Dan Shaban.

Reardon was chief of endocrinology at St. Francis from 1963 until he was forced to retire in 1993, when a brother and sister from upstate New York tracked him to Hartford and complained to the state Department of Health that he had abused them when he was a medical student in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

According to court records, doe's case is similar to most of the pending cases Reardon approached his mother and persuaded her to allow him to enroll Doe and his brother in the so-called study. The brother, John Doe 3, also is suing.

Doe claims in his suit, filed by the New Haven law firm Stratton Faxon, that he was abused from 1977 to 1985, when he was aged 9 to 17. In some cases, he says Reardon picked him up at his home and drove him to the hospital for examinations. In other cases, he stayed overnight at Reardon's home and the doctor drove him from there to the hospital. He said he was seen by Reardon about 100 times.

In a deposition, Doe's mother said she asked to be present when Reardon saw her sons, but the doctor refused. The mother said she wanted to witness her sons' examinations because the two, now-grown men, "were my sons and I really wanted to know what he was doing." St. Francis is represented by the law firm Day Pitney.

Those suing St. Francis claim on a variety of grounds that the hospital, as Reardon's employer, had an obligation to supervise him and protect them. Judge Shaban has dismissed most of the grounds but is allowing the first suit to proceed on two that the hospital negligently failed to supervise Reardon and that it failed in a special duty it had to protect children.

The victims want damages from St. Francis for the trauma they say was inflicted by Reardon and the lingering effects they say they still endure. Efforts to settle the suits, including an 11th hour mediation session last week failed.

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