COLUMBIA, SC — A federal trial involving the alleged rape of a 13-year-old cadet at Camden Military Academy will enter its fourth week Monday.
The civil trial involving an alleged 2008 rape and bullying at the 55-year-old school began June 10 and was only expected to last about two weeks.
But the trial has been slowed by teams of opposing lawyers, who have often battled furiously and at great length over which pieces of evidence should be shown to the jury and which witnesses will be allowed to give testimony on various topics.
Judge Joe Anderson has sent the jury out of the courtroom numerous times so he could hear lawyers make detailed legal arguments on exactly what the jury should be allowed to hear. At other times, disagreements among lawyers about what witnesses have said on the witness stand have prompted Anderson to have the court reporter bring up earlier testimony so the court could hear what the transcript showed.
“I’ve been a judge for 26 years – this is the hardest case I’ve had to preside over because the law is so difficult,” Anderson told the lawyers out of the jury’s hearing at one point last week.
At another time last week, after lawyers wrangled over evidence, Anderson said, “I’ve heard so many debates in this case I can’t keep them straight! I’m trying to be as fair to both sides as best I can.”
Last Monday, after putting up some two dozens live and videotaped witnesses, as well has playing some nine minutes’ of cell phone videos of cadet-on-cadet beatings at Camden Military Academy, the plaintiffs rested.
Last Tuesday, after Anderson denied defense motions to throw the case out, the defendants – the school and three top officials including headmaster Col. Erik Boland – began presenting evidence.
On Wednesday, Anderson recessed the court for three days while he attended a long-scheduled judicial conference.
It is not clear at this point whether defendants can present all of their witnesses and have the case be argued to the jury by the end of this week, which includes the 4th of July federal holiday.
The lawsuit was brought last year by a former cadet, now 18, who claims he was raped and sodomized by two cadets, as well as repeatedly was bullied, during his four months at the school. Although he dropped out, he claims the experience so traumatized him that he has suffered depression and suicidal thoughts. His suit argues the school knew, or should have known, of his trials.
For its part, the academy asserts that the assaults the cadet claims didn’t happen, or if they did happen, they were the work of rogue cadets and the school could not have known about them.
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.