Testimony On Pedophiles Ends Evidence In St. Francis Trial
Jury Could Get Case Late Thursday
In this 1993 photograph, Dr. George Reardon listens to testimony at the Legislature Office Building on allegations that he sexually abused two people, a brother and sister, several years ago. (Michael McAndrews, Hartford Courant File Photo / October 26, 1993)
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Waterbury, CT, USA
Dr. Anna Salter, a clinical psychologist who has spent her professional life trying to help identify and warn against child predators, said that if there was a hierarchy of pedophiles, Reardon would have been at its apex.
She said he did what all "long-term," "successful" child molesters do, only better: He created a double life.
To friends, colleagues and the public, she said, Reardon was a successful and frequently promoted physician and professor of medicine. In private, she said, he used the trust generated by his professional persona to obtain unfettered access to the hundreds of defenseless children whom he abused and posed for pornographic photographs.
Salter's appearance as a defense witness for St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center concluded the evidentiary portion of the trial. The case could go to the six-member civil jury late Thursday after lawyers make closing arguments and the judge instructs jurors on applicable law.
Salter's testimony was nothing new to the jurors, who earlier in the trial heard a half-dozen Reardon victims describe, sometimes in agonizing detail, what he did to them two, three or more decades ago. Most of Reardon's victims, now adults, have said he abused them after persuading their parents to enroll them in a fictitious growth study he claimed to have been running for almost 25 years from his office at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.
But there was a more subtle message in the testimony by Salter, who defense lawyers for St. Francis called as their final witness. Reardon's victims are suing St. Francis for more than $100 million in damages on claims that the hospital's failure to supervise Reardon and his so-called growth study permitted the abuse.
By testifying that Reardon's "success" as a pedophile grew from his ability to avoid detection, Salter implied that St. Francis was, in a fashion, another of his victims. She said Reardon used his public face as a successful and likable doctor to conceal his aberrant, private behavior from the hospital administration, just as he did from parents, police, colleagues and hospital administrators.
She said Reardon's child victims were deceived because they thought his abuse and photography were part of his study or their treatment.
"Dr. Reardon was excellent at fooling people," Salter said. "He built a very compelling double life."
Hospital lawyers wanted Salter to tell jurors that Reardon's capacity for deception was so great that St. Francis could not reasonably have been expected to detect his pedophilia and, thereby, prevent the abuse. Superior Court Judge Dan Shaban blocked Salter from expressing her opinion and limited her testimony to her knowledge of pedophiles and their practices.
Earlier in the trial, Shaban imposed a similar limiting order on St. Francis when he prevented another hospital defense expert from testifying that society in general was not even aware of the threat from pedophiles in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, when Reardon was conducting his growth study.
That witness also would have testified that even law enforcement did not become generally aware of the threat from pedophiles until the sex scandals involving Catholic priests were widely publicized in the 1990s.
Michael Stratton, the lawyer for the first victim to go to trial against St. Francis, tried to use Salter's writings about detecting pedophiles against the hospital. In a 2003 book about sexual predators, she said institutions that serve children, such as scouting organizations, can "deflect" pedophiles by making sure that a single child and adult are never left alone.
Stratton referred Salter to testimony earlier in the trial that suggested that even Reardon, in a conversation with a colleague, had recognized the wisdom of having a parent present during an examination of a child. Would it not have been a wise practice by the hospital to insist on having more than one adult present during all examinations of children, Stratton asked?
Salter's response veered close to the kind of testimony Shaban had prohibited when he prevented expert testimony about evolving societal awareness of pedophilia.
"In 1985, no one knew what a risk child molesters were," Salter said. "You are discussing a book that was written in 2003. Most of my research wasn't even done in 1985."