Over decades, Reardon, who died in '98, lured children into his office under the guise of a bogus growth study. Without the accompaniment of a chaperone, Reardon would have the children strip and he'd fondle, and sexually abuse them, and pose them for pornographic pictures.
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But there was child porn. In 2007, Reardon's hidden pornographic library was found in his former West Hartford home. Immediately the hospital dug in its heels, and on Tuesday, attorneys for St. Francis were in Courtroom 3B in Waterbury Superior Court in the first civil case of 90-some lawsuits filed by former Reardon patients.
The hospital will try to prove its ignorance of Reardon's decades-long abuse. This after months and months of delays and motions and scare tactics from an organization that is —- according to one of its recent ads — "committed to health and healing through excellence, compassionate care and reverence for the spirituality of each person."
If St. Francis needed help finding the high road, it could have looked just a few blocks over in Hartford. In 2004, when a 15-year-old athlete died in the care of Connecticut Children's Medical Center, that hospital settled a malpractice suit out of court, apologized, and then went further. After talking to the family, the hospital named a rehabilitation center after the young man. It spent millions for new equipment, and millions more to increase staffing in the emergency department. It also added an annual conference, also in the young man's name.
None of that will bring back the athlete, but the medical center acnowledged that something precious was lost, and that a respected health care entity cared.
Contrast that to this: In his opening statements arguing for St. Francis Tuesday, attorney Paul Williams entreated the jury to direct their anger against Reardon. And he reminded jurors that life was simpler during the decades in which Reardon abused hundreds of vulnerable children. We were more trusting; the attorney mentioned "The Waltons," and "Happy Days."
I watched "The Waltons," too, but I knew it was a television show and that real life sometimes involved evil that must be stopped.
Judge Dan Shaban said presentation of evidence in this case would most likely last into mid-May. One victim told me she can't understand St. Francis' stance.
"Their defiance in the face of so much evidence leaves me baffled," she said.
On Tuesday, one attorney said childhood sexual abuse is like throwing a hand grenade into a child's life. You may be able to put the pieces back, but you're going to need help. After this case's first day in court, we are reminded that Reardon's victims once again won't be able to count on help from his employer.
Courant staff writer and columnist Susan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.