Wednesday, October 24, 2018

THREE LETTERS: About the reporting of alleged sexual-abuse cases at Williams College | Meg Bossong, John Pucci, Paul Caccaviello

UPDATE, OCT. 31 -- WAMC'S Josh Landes has posted a detailed story about this.

These three letters were published in The Berkshire Eagle on the dates and at the URLs provided. They are reproduced here in a exercise of copyright fair use for non-profit analysis and comment and to promote public discourse. The first letter refers to a debate which occurred July 31 in Williamstown. You can go back and review audio of that debate or watch WilliNet's archived VIDEO.

Some reporting of the nuances with sexual-assault handling was posted to iBerkshires on Sept. 2 of 2014 -- four years ago.

BELOW FROM:,546671

Letter: Williams College wronged by Caccaviello claim

Posted Friday, August 3, 2018 5:45 pm

To the editor:

During the Berkshire County district attorney forum on July 31, the candidates for DA were asked about two campus sexual assault bills pending in the Legislature.

In his response, Paul Caccaviello chose to describe the complex problem of campus sexual assault by pointing to Williams College, specifically, for failing to report incidents of sexual violence to the criminal legal system and to advocate for the legal rights of student survivors of intimate violence.

Mr. Caccaviello's assertions are patently and categorically false. His own predecessor, David Capeless, refuted this point in a lengthy interview with iBerkshires in 2014, saying "My understanding from talking to [Williamstown Police] Chief [Kyle] Johnson is that when [Williams] gets incidents, they report it to the police. Even when the victim doesn't want to talk to the police, they tell the police just so they know. Unfortunately, there's been a misunderstanding of what colleges are doing. It's too easy to think that they have every reason to suppress the idea that there are assaults on their campus. But they're not suppressing the information."

To be effective in advocating on behalf of crime victims, advocates — whether on campus, in community-based agencies like the Elizabeth Freeman Center, or in the DA's own victim-witness advocacy program — have to help victims understand their options, and the benefits and barriers to accessing them. Williams presents students with all their legal and disciplinary options, and supports them in accessing those, either directly or via connection with off-campus resources.

Survivors of violence often weigh whether they can endure the publicity and pain of a criminal proceeding. That self-searching, at the same time they are reacting to and trying to begin their recovery from trauma, has to include a consideration of whether a criminal complaint is likely to lead to a conviction.

The DA's office makes the final choice about whether to pursue prosecution in cases of sexual violence that occur in Berkshire County. This includes cases affecting students of the four colleges located here. Mr. Caccaviello needs to tell the voters of our county how many cases of peer-to-peer, alcohol-involved sexual assault and rape his office has chosen to bring to trial, and how many cases they have pleaded out to lesser, non-sexual offenses or agreed to continue without a finding.

With that information, the voters of Berkshire County can decide on Sept. 4 whose advocacy has come up short.

Meg Bossong,

The writer is the director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Williams College.

BELOW FROM:,549082

Caccaviello failed to respond to Williams

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2018 4:15 pm
To the editor:

I write in regard to the Berkshire district attorney campaign. I have been a trial lawyer for 38 years. I was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, and have practiced criminal law in Berkshire County and other counties across Massachusetts.

Throughout the campaign, candidate Paul Caccaviello has claimed that his long "experience" in the DA's office makes him the best candidate.

I beg to differ, but first some facts. The Clery Act is a federal law requiring colleges to report on-campus crime statistics to the U.S. Department of Education. Williams College made its most recent Clery Act disclosure in 2017 covering the years 2014-2016. For those three years, Williams identified 41 credible complaints of rape that it had reported to its campus security office and the Williamstown Police Department. The Berkshire district attorney had the responsibility to review these cases and prosecute those that could be proven in court. My research reveals that only one of these 47 cases has been prosecuted.

These shocking statistics demand an explanation from candidate Caccaviello. At a recent public forum in Williamstown, Caccaviello blamed Williams College, claiming it had failed to report them to law enforcement and to advocate for the rights of student survivors. But according to the Williams Clery Act Reports, all the data about this sexual violence was reported to the Williamstown Police Department and must have been reviewed by the DA's Office. Moreover, all this Clery Act information for 2014-2016 has been publicly available online to Caccaviello's Office for quite some time.

In an August 3 letter to The Eagle, Meg Bossong, the director of sexual assault prevention at Williams, wrote that Caccaviello's claims at the Williamstown Forum were "categorically false." Ms. Bossong asked that Caccaviello provide the public with statistics detailing the number of these kinds of rape cases his office has prosecuted, and their resolution. Caccaviello has failed to do so.

Voters are entitled to this information and a truthful explanation for the DA's failure to prosecute more of these cases. They are also part of Caccaviello's "experience" for which he is accountable.

Andrea Harrington has made a public commitment to review the many rape cases Caccaviello's Office has failed to bring. This has to be done to restore credibility and common decency to that office. She is the only candidate who will bring this kind of accountability to the Berkshire DA's office.

John Pucci,

BELOW FROM:,554130

Letter: Politics behind attack on DA's Williams College probe

Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2018 4:27 pm

To the editor:

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in August of this year. The letter, authored by John Pucci, a donor to my opponent, claimed that the Berkshire district attorney failed to investigate or prosecute over 40 cases of sexual assault reported by Williams College between 2014 and 2016.

The allegations in this letter were extremely disturbing as they are completely contrary to the mission of the office and goal of protecting victims. I contacted both Williams College and the Williamstown Police Department to begin an inquiry into the matter and found that Mr. Pucci's claims were not only without merit, but misleading, ill-informed, and insensitive to victims.

What I discovered was that the majority of the information provided by Williams College to the Williamstown Police Department did not contain sufficient data to permit a thorough investigation by law enforcement. It found that although Mr. Pucci claimed that "all the data about this sexual violence was reported [by the college] to the Williamstown Police Department," in fact, two-thirds of the incidents reported to the police failed to identify either the victim or the alleged perpetrator of the crime.

Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson discovered an additional 18 cases of sexual assault were never even reported to his department and, therefore, could not be referred to the district attorney's office for further investigation or prosecution. Mr. Pucci's claim that "all the data" about these crimes was shared with the local

police and the Berkshire district attorney's office is simply not true.

When the police department timely requested the names of the parties involved in these cases to further their own investigation, Williams College did not provide the names and protected the confidentiality of the victims and alleged perpetrators. The college was well within its discretion not to reveal the names of the parties to these incidents. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not require colleges and universities to report allegations of sexual violence to law enforcement, it only requires schools to investigate and address sexual violence on campus.

Title IX also permits, and even encourages, schools to maintain students' confidentiality. The college is not required to provide to the public or to the district attorney any additional information about these incidents.

In fact, the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report informs students that "all reported crimes will be investigated by the college and may become a matter of public record only if subpoenaed by law enforcement."

We in the DA's office fully respect the rights of victims who chose to remain anonymous and not move forward with an investigation and we understand that the college also has an obligation to provide a safe atmosphere for its students to speak freely. What is disappointing, and irresponsible, is that Mr. Pucci chose to blame the Berkshire district attorney's office for the nature of Williams College's public disclosures of sexual violence. Politicizing this issue was not " just politics" — it is just wrong.

It is important to continue to work with Williams College and Williamstown Police Department to assist in investigations and support all victims of sexual assault. This is an issue that colleges across the country are facing and we are committed to providing all of the necessary resources to not just Williams College but all college campuses in Berkshire County to address the problem.

Paul Caccaviello,

The writer is Berkshire district attorney and is running as a write-in candidate for election on Nov. 6.


(Author: Bill Densmore)

1) Does Williams take the position that it won't provide names of victims or alleged assailants except in response to subpoena? Has the Williamstown PD ever asked that subpoenas be issued? Why or why not?

2) More detail is needed on the apparently conflicting roles of colleges under Title IX vs. to law-enforcement to report alleged assaults on campus in detail sufficient to permit an informed judgement about prosecution.  What does WIlliams think? What do MCLA, Simons Rock, etc. think?

3) Caccaviello gives no indication of why or whether he would or would not press Williams for greater disclosure, or why he would not sua sponte request issuance of subpoenas to determine the need for prosecution or discretion.

4) What does Harrington think of all this?  Is this all politics, or something deeper? 


Post a Comment

<< Home