On Wednesday, attorneys for St. Francis Hospital called three doctors — all former employees of the Hartford institution — as witnesses in Courtroom 3B of Waterbury Superior Court.
Originally, about the time the doctors testified in the landmark child sexual abuse trial, hospital staff had planned to gather in Hartford for an event marking child abuse awareness. That event was inexplicably canceled by the administration.
Ironic, yes? April is child abuse awareness month, and the Waterbury trial, which started April 5, is the first of 90-some civil cases facing the hospital, where once worked George Reardon, who for decades used a bogus growth study to lure hundreds of children and adolescents into his office, where he sexually abused them and posed them for pornographic photos.
If you believe court testimony, Reardon operated freely because over his roughly three-decade-long career, not one hospital employee thought to ask what he was doing. On Thursday, a retired doctor insisted that in order to be reviewed, Reardon himself would have had to alert the hospital about his "research." Of course, he never did.
One letter written by one of Reardon's bosses and presented in court said Reardon fell short on "documentation of creative activity," but the letter nevertheless recommended promotion. Most colleagues, under oath, say they knew nothing about a growth study, though nearly all knew Reardon carried a handgun strapped to his waist in the hospital, and they thought nothing of it.
Last year about this time, employees gathered in the hospital's lower rotunda for a similar event to raise awareness of child abuse. At the time, legislators were discussing a bill that would have extended the civil statute of limitations for seeking redress after the sexual abuse, assault, or exploitation of a minor. The bill also would have set strict limitations for people who want to file a lawsuit.
The Archdiocese of Hartford, the insurance industry, and the hospital vehemently opposed the bill. The same time the hospital hosted its event, the bill's sponsors announced that lacking support, they would not push their bill further. Then-Rep. Beth Bye — now a state senator — promised to reintroduce a bill more to the liking of the original opponents.
A new bill was introduced this session and — guess what? — the opposition continued.
The St. Francis trial has been horrible. On Thursday, an expert witness for the defense said he held in high regard a particular psychological test he'd administered to the plaintiff, John Doe 2. The witness — a Boston psychiatrist making $550 an hour for his work for the hospital — said upon review, the plaintiff hadn't shown many emotional signs of having been sexually abused. But John Doe's attorney read aloud test results that included feelings of suicide, at which point the expert witness tried to discount his own test. Even a casual observer would notice the test revealed precisely the long-term symptoms John Doe 2 had described in earlier testimony.
Amid a flurry of objections and motions, it is the plaintiff who keeps bringing it home. Other victims have taken the stand to tell similar stories. Reardon's abuse was an axe that chopped their childhoods in half, and after? Nothing was ever the same.
Because of the shame of childhood sexual abuse, the victims use pseudonyms, though earlier, the hospital filed a motion asking to strip them of their anonymity. The revictimization potential is high. Victims come and go, sometimes sitting in the court, sometimes pacing the hallway. I want to look away, one told me, but I can't.
This case should never have made it to court. Travelers — the hospital's primary insurance carrier — would do best to settle and do it quickly.Copyright © 2015, CT Now