St. Francis Trial: What Do You Call a Monster’s Minders?

June 26, 2011

Hartford Courant, Susan Campbell

A December 1970 purchase order was presented as evidence last week at the second St. Francis Hospital child sex abuse trial in Waterbury Superior Court.

So much more was presented, including testimony from the plaintiff, Tim Doe 1, his mother, his sister, his family doctor and others, as well as documents that included St. Francis Hospital’s bylaws.

And then there was that purchase order, which was mentioned in passing but — for some, anyway — stopped the proceedings short.

The order came from one George Reardon, the hospital’s head of endocrinology who, hiding behind the shield of the white coat of a respected doctor (one who, as testimony has it, also carried a pistol), was systematically trooping children and adolescents into his hospital office where he sexually abused and exploited them, and then snapped photos and slides of them in pornographic poses.

The purchase order was routine, and included a request for reimbursement of regular office items such as pens.

And it included crayons.

And right there, the focus of the court went from which documents would be admitted as evidence to the horror of the abuse conducted in that hospital office. George Reardon, serial pedophile, wanted his employer to reimburse him for crayons he supplied to his victims. What were they coloring, do you think?

There’s been much discussion this go-round of what precisely will be admitted as evidence. The defendant — the 114-year St. Francis hospital — has ample legal reasons for cutting off its own paper trail. If the devil’s in the details, the case is in the multiple hospital records that show that administrators knew of the existence of Reardon’s purported growth study, but never thought to check to see if it was legitimate, much less whether the study’s human subjects — children as young as 8 — were being exploited or hurt.

On the stand Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Mascia, since 1995 the family doctor of the plaintiff, Tim Doe 1, told of how Doe broke the news to him that he was a victim of Reardon. The plaintiff who like others is going by a pseudoym burst into tears, Masica told the court, and said, “There’s something I haven’t told you.” And then he apologized for telling Mascia. The details were too raw.

Sadly, the longer this goes, the less accurate it feels to call Doe and the countless other children and adolescents strictly “victims of Reardon.” They were also victims of St. Francis Hospital, which — as we’re seeing once again in this trial, as we saw in the previous one that ended last month in a settlement during jury deliberations — ignored its own standards and never, ever checked on Reardon’s decades-long “growth study.” Child after child was walked into his office, and was turned over to a monster.

In fact, hospital lawyers have called him that, “a monster.”

So what name do you give a monster’s employers who flouted hospital bylaws that required quarterly meetings at which committee members would review (and potentially reject) hospital research projects such as Reardon’s? How do you characterize them?

Earlier, the plaintiff’s attorney, of Bridgeport’s Tremont Sheldon law firm, subpoenaed the Hartford Archdiocese’s record keeper. Records of St. Francis, which calls itself New England’s largest Catholic hospital, have come to the Archdiocese “idiosyncratically,” one archdiocese lawyer said in court last week. Because documents that contained the information sought by Attorney were admitted, instead, no church official needed show up in Waterbury to testify. I wish a church official had shown up, because the hospital’s legal defense mirrors the defense mounted by the church, in general. We didn’t know. We couldn’t have known.

But they could have. St. Francis’s own bylaws laid out precisely what was expected of researchers in the hospital, and what was expected of the committee that oversaw them, and in the case of George Reardon, both parties failed dismally. So, seriously: What should we call them, do you think?

Related Links

– Summary and Resources for Dr. George Reardon Case