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Falsely Accused in Rye – RCSD has some ‘splainin’ to do.

The following is taken from the excellent front page expose article published by The Journal News on Saturday, December 21st, 2013.

 

“Brian Lavelle of Yonkers is a basketball coach who was fired three years ago by the Rye City School District. The district falsely accused him of stealing credit cards and cash from a student's knapsack. The district has apologized and agreed to pay him $125,000.

 

Timeline of events

 

Oct. 26, 2010: Brian Lavelle is hired as Rye’s head varsity girls basketball coach. 
Nov. 24, 2010: Student Ted Ice, who left his knapsack in the gymnasium the previous day, reports $30 and two credit cards were taken from it. 
Dec. 2, 2010: Lavelle is suspended by acting Principal Dr. John Smith, who cites video evidence of him stealing from the bag. 
Dec. 7, 2010: Lavelle is fired. 
April 11, 2011: Under court order, the district produces the video. It shows four people going into the knapsack. It is too dark to see whether anyone took anything. 
Nov. 7, 2013: With a jury chosen, the district settles a defamation suit filed by Lavelle, apologizing to him and agreeing to pay him $125,000.

 

The settlement of Lavelle’s defamation suit doesn’t permit him to discuss the district’s actions. But court papers raise multiple questions.

They reveal that the district reported to Rye police that surveillance video of the high school gymnasium showed only Lavelle going into the backpack on Nov. 23, 2010. In fact, the video, which the district refused to show Lavelle until under court order five months later, shows three people, including Lavelle, going into it that night. Lavelle said he went into it to determine its owner. Court records also reveal that the district erased additional gym video.

Lavelle was suspended on Dec. 2, 2010, and fired by the school board five days later. He was questioned by police but never charged.

In response to Lavelle’s defamation lawsuit, in January 2011, athletic director Robert Castagna said in an affidavit that he had reviewed surveillance tapes and they showed Lavelle removing something from the bag. According to court papers submitted by Lavelle’s attorney, Gerald DiEdwards, Castagna reviewed only about five minutes of video, although the knapsack was left unattended from the afternoon until the next morning.

Court records indicate the alleged theft was investigated by school security officer Ed DiNunzio, who told Rye police that surveillance video didn’t show anyone other than Lavelle handling the knapsack. DiNunzio, who no longer works for the district, could not be reached for comment.

Contacted this week, Rye City Assistant Superintendent Gabriella O’Connor maintained that the district’s insurance carrier handled and resolved the matter, and that the district had no copy of the settlement agreement, nor any other documentation relating to the case. But Robert Freeman, chairman of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said that even if those records are not being kept on school property, they are subject to FOIL if maintained for the district.

Among the materials not supplied to The Journal News is a “written document” cited in court documents from then-Superintendent of Schools Edward J. Shine to the Board of Education on Dec. 7, 2010. In it, Shine says that while video shows a coach besides Lavelle opening the knapsack in front of two people, “There is only one person who could have taken those items: varsity basketball coach Brian Lavelle.”

Shine, now superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, Conn., declined comment.”

Read the full excellent LoHud story and watch the video interview here –

http://www.lohud.com/article/20131220/NEWS/312200093/Falsely-accused-hoops-coach-wants-back-game-after-Rye-schools-apologizes

It is now going on 3 weeks since this front page expose landed on the doorsteps of homes throughout the entire region. A check of the RCSD web site resulted in nothing about this that I could find. Perhaps they forgot about it. Here’s a question I think the residents who pay the bills here would like to know – I believe that video tape suppressed until forced out by court order is what is known as “exculpatory evidence.” WHO exactly – by name(s) – was responsible for this suppression and tampering - and if they work for a law firm retained by the RCSD or its insurance company - WHAT are the consequences to them for this shameful illegal behavior bringing much widely publicized unnecessary and hurtful discredit to the city and the district?

Bob Zahm January 07, 2014 at 03:07 PM
So, Ted, what are you asking the school district to explain? Maybe you should attend the next Board of Ed meeting and register your questions there as Rye Patch and other blogs have not proven to be a useful / reliable way to communicate with Rye's elected bodies.
Anne McCarthy January 07, 2014 at 03:42 PM
I'd like to know how something like this happens. Some very basic questions are who viewed the videotape, when did they view it, what did they say and did they lie. Very basic. I've been following this story and expected the District to issue an apology. Nothing. It seems the District is comfortable destroying lives for no reason and moving on. People have written letters, been to Bd of Ed meetings. Blogs are exactly the place to communicate with the Bd of Ed and Alvarez. A bunch of parents in my son's class (including myself) wrote a letter to Alvarez earlier this school year. NO RESPONSE. In retrospect, we should have published it here. Look how quickly he responded to the Taylor-bashing.
tedc January 07, 2014 at 04:01 PM
RyeBob - I want them to explain in writing and publish the answers in writing to what I asked above. And why would I need to attend a RCSD meeting to ask this? I'm a resident. I'm very reliable. And I'm very supportive of the RCSD outside of this troubling matter.------SO AGAIN - "It is now going on 3 weeks since this front page expose landed on the doorsteps of homes throughout the entire region. A check of the RCSD web site resulted in nothing about this that I could find. Perhaps they forgot about it. Here’s a question I think the residents who pay the bills here would like to know – I believe that video tape suppressed until forced out by court order is what is known as “exculpatory evidence.” WHO exactly – by name(s) – was responsible for this suppression and tampering - and if they work for a law firm retained by the RCSD or its insurance company - WHAT are the consequences to them for this shameful illegal behavior bringing much widely publicized unnecessary and hurtful discredit to the city and the district?"
RyeDad January 07, 2014 at 04:15 PM
This type of thing should not be too shocking for this community. A certain member of the Rye Police Department has fabricated charges in the past and then lied about it under oath in front of Judges and the prosecutor and nothing happens. ====================================== A defense witness was threatened in Rye City Court by a member of the Rye Police Department. Connors and the Rye Judge did nothing about it. Their inaction I believe empowered and encouraged this same cop who was later suspended after being arrested for another incident that occurred in Eastchester. ====================================== The Rye Police Department has amongst them a member that has been accused of possessing a stolen gun, had a gun equipped with a silencer in his desk and has bragged about shooting and killing someone who was on the roof of his home. Maybe the new Rye City Council will make this upstanding citizen the interim Police Commissioner.
Bob Zahm January 07, 2014 at 09:14 PM
Ted - my point is that pasting an newspaper article on a blog and saying that you expect answers wouldn't really make clear to me what you want answered. And posting on a blog may get the usual blog readers/writers worked-up, but it will have no impact on the school district. The only things that will work there are a.) significant, on-going attendance and speaking at Board meetings by 20+ people; b.) realistic and credible threat of legal action; c.) fear that because of the Board's actions, the next budget might not pass. You won't get there with a blog post.
tedc January 07, 2014 at 09:30 PM
Bob - so, translation - RCSD to solo residents who are media experts concerned about regional bad press and lawyers committing crimes, "Just shut up and pay and trust us when we screw some innocent guy. He might not have deserved it but confidentiality provisions are essential to us protecting the guilty."
Bob Zahm January 08, 2014 at 09:10 AM
@Ted - yes, that's a reasonable way to take what's being done. But don't forget, there's also the significant waste in extra salary and benefit costs PLUS the fact that the DA has said no crime was committed. Seems like there are some "backed in a corner" egos at stake.
Louse Dumas January 08, 2014 at 09:39 AM
Hating to sound like POSL here but defamation, slander, libel, etc are these not criminal if definitions are met? Seems like someone screwed the pooch here and it wasn't the gym teacher. (sorry DC for choice of words). TEDC is correct here. No one will see nor hear about this if just brought up at boring meeting. At this site it garners at least some attention.
tedc January 08, 2014 at 10:04 AM
Bob - I agree. That's what I also heard yesterday from a RCSD insider. But we're "speculating." The residents are entitled to the whole truth and nothing less. This black eye isn't a media creation - its tangible and damages credibility at multiple level. Credibility is coin-of-the-realm whether your talking about your kid's report card or justifying a school tax increase. Devalue managerial and supervisory credibility by suppressing the identities of perpetrators of outright criminal behavior and you hurt the system. And its in no ones interest to do that here - except the guilty.
Deirdre Curran January 08, 2014 at 10:06 AM
Actually, I've been quite surprised over the last few months to find out just how many more people are reading all this stuff on Patch than the comments sections would lead you to believe. Based on how many people talk to me in person about the stuff they've seen me write here on Patch, I'd say this has quite the wide-spread readership, so yes, it gets information and points of view out to many more residents than just meetings. This is a vehicle to get people to GO TO THE meetings, which they often didn't even know about. Please, do not screw any pooches or even use that euphemism. We already had *that* God Awful scandal last year and I was equal parts livid and disgusted.
dita von struedel van trappyodel January 09, 2014 at 10:16 PM
Ted C - how is your exposé of the Schubert fairy tail coming along? I'm beginning to think that I will die of old age before you step up to the plate on this

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