No charges filed in California elite school sex abuse probe

Dec 28, 2022, 5:58 AM | Updated: 8:00 pm

OJAI, Calif. (AP) — No criminal charges will be filed over decades of alleged sexual misconduct at an elite private high school in Southern California even though “numerous” children were victimized, authorities said Wednesday.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the county district attorney’s office announced they completed an 18-month investigation into more than 100 cases of alleged sexual abuse at The Thacher School in Ojai, northwest of Los Angeles.

However most cases were decades old, with some dating back to the 1960s, and the statute of limitations to file charges had expired, the DA’s office and Sheriff’s Department said in a joint news release.

In 43 cases, the victims couldn’t be reached or declined to participate while in another 30, investigators determined that no crime had occurred, sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Clark said, according to the Ventura County Star.

Only three cases actually were brought to the district attorney’s office last year for possible prosecution but charges couldn’t be brought because of the expired statute of limitations, the press release said.

The other cases weren’t submitted to the DA’s office because “they fell clearly outside the statute of limitations, the victims sought no prosecution, or no crime could be established,” the release said.

“Our inability to bring charges should not be seen as endorsing what happened over the years at Thacher,” said Deputy District Attorney Brent Nibecker, according to the Star. “Numerous children were victimized. Adults entrusted with their care violated that trust.”

Last year, the Thacher School released a 90-page report by a law firm it hired to investigate allegations made in an alumni social media campaign. The report detailed episodes of alleged rape, groping, unwanted touching and inappropriate comments going back 40 years, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

It specified six alleged perpetrators and described alleged efforts by former administrators to cover up complaints and blame victims.

County authorities said the Thacher School cooperated — but also said the school’s decision to order an independent investigation and then publicly release the results hampered the criminal probe.

Some suspects who were publicly identified refused to be interviewed, referred questions to their lawyers, or took steps to avoid contact with law enforcement altogether, the press release said.

Daniel W. Yih, the chair of Thacher’s governing board, wrote in a letter accompanying the report that none of the accused were still employed by the school.

“To survivors of sexual misconduct and their families in our community, we are deeply sorry,” Yih wrote.

The board of trustees acknowledged a “profound” impact on students because of the failure to exert proper oversight.

“Many suffered lasting harm not just from the sexual misconduct itself but also from the school’s handling of the misconduct,” the trustees said in a statement.

Despite the lack of prosecutions, the DA’s office “strongly encouraged” victims of unreported sexual assault at Thacher to contact law enforcement, the press release said.

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No charges filed in California elite school sex abuse probe