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Gambling panel didn’t delve into abuse case

Group’s chairman relied on news reports to vet hire

By Andrea Estes
Globe Staff / May 6, 2012
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The chairman of the state’s new gambling commission last week called Carl Stanley McGee’s record pristine, saying he had reviewed the 2007 sexual assault charges against McGee in Florida and found them warrantless and meritless.

‘‘He went through this horrendous experience of being accused of a sexual harassment charge several years ago in Florida,’’ chairman Stephen Crosby told his colleagues Tuesday, according to a transcript of the meeting posted on the agency’s website, before they voted to name McGee interim executive director.

But Crosby now acknowledges he conducted no independent investigation, concluding instead that McGee could be hired based on news reports that the local Florida prosecutor did not press charges because of a lack of DNA or other corroborating evidence.

‘‘I did not do any independent analysis of the state attorney’s work, nor do I believe that would be appropriate," he wrote in an e-mail to the Globe Friday. ‘‘Stan is presumed to be innocent of the allegations.’’

The Globe reported last week that law enforcement officials in Florida had believed the alleged victim, who was 15 but looked younger, and had urged the local prosecutor to bring charges against McGee soon after the alleged attack. They described a teenager who was scared but credible, providing consistent accounts of the incident.

The Florida prosecutor declined to comment on the case last week.

McGee, 43, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, is scheduled to start work next week as interim executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, where he will be paid $121,000 a year, the same salary he had been making with the Patrick administration as assistant secretary for policy and planning. McGee did not return a call seeking comment.

In recommending McGee for the job, Crosby said allegations that McGee assaulted the boy in the steam room of an exclusive Florida resort had been ‘‘investigated six ways from Sunday’’ by Florida authorities and that the charges were false, according to a transcript of Tuesday’s commission meeting.

In an interview with the Cape Cod Times Tuesday, Crosby went even further, saying the commission had thoroughly investigated the charges against McGee, speaking to the prosecutor in Florida and Governor Deval Patrick and ‘‘everyone came to the same conclusion that there was zero substance to these charges,’’ the newspaper reported.

Crosby, in e-mailed responses sent Friday, denied telling the reporter that the commission had contacted the prosecutor or the governor.

The Cape Cod Times stood by the accuracy of the quote in reporter George Brennan’s article. ‘‘This is an experienced reporter, and he got it right,’’ said Paul Pronovost, editor of the Cape Cod Times. ‘‘We are totally confident the quote is accurate.’’

Addressing his comments at the commission meeting, Crosby said he should not have referred to the allegations as ‘‘meritless, if I did, because I do not know the full facts.’’

‘‘I should have said ‘evidence insufficient to warrant prosecution of the charges,’ ’’ he said.

In fact, the Patrick administration could not have told him the allegations were meritless, because it never looked into them, according to officials familiar with McGee’s employment history.

The administration allowed McGee to return to his job in 2008 after the Florida prosecutor declined to press charges. The Patrick administration never conducted its own internal investigation, the officials said.

The alleged victim in the case, now a 20-year-old college student, reacted angrily Wednesday after reading that McGee’s former boss — Daniel O’Connell, formerly secretary of housing and economic development in the Patrick administration — had called the allegations false when interviewed by the Globe about McGee’s selection. The family then released the results of a 2008 investigation by Florida child welfare officials recommending that McGee be prosecuted.

The state investigation was conducted after the family complained to the Florida governor’s office about the local prosecutor’s decision not to press charges. An investigator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement subsequently recommended that the prosecutor reconsider the charge of sexual battery on a child under 16 and add a second charge of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 16.

Again the prosecutor decided not to press charges.

The family’s lawyer, Wendy Murphy, said the family was ‘‘shocked and offended’’ by O’Connell’s comments, published in Tuesday’s Globe, noting that McGee paid to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the family after the authorities declined to prosecute. She described the alleged victim as ‘‘not only a child under the age of consent, but. . . particularly small for his age.’’

The teenager was vacationing with his family at a Gulf Coast resort in December 2007 when the alleged assault occurred. McGee, 38 at the time, was arrested and held overnight on $300,000 bond after declining to answer questions from the police. The Patrick administration placed him on unpaid leave; he returned to work after the charges were dropped.

A police officer who handled the case told the Globe last week that he ‘‘absolutely’’ believed the boy, who was curled up in a fetal position, shaking and crying after the alleged attack.

Why the prosecutor didn’t bring charges was the ‘‘$64,000 question,’’ he said. ‘‘Somewhere between Massachusetts and Florida . . . I don’t know what happened. It’s above my pay grade.’’

Murphy said members of the family are willing to meet with the gaming commission to tell their side of the story. ‘‘All they’ve ever done from day one is cooperate, provide information, and tell the truth,’’ Murphy said.

Other board members also downplayed the allegations at Tuesday’s meeting. Former New Jersey police Lieutenant Colonel Gayle Cameron suggested she too had reviewed the record and was unconcerned.

‘‘Every document that I’ve looked at with regard to this matter, there is no shred of evidence,’’ she said. ‘‘. . . We do the individual a disservice if we took this into consideration.’’ She could not be reached Friday for comment.

Commission member James F. McHugh, a retired judge, said he thought the ‘‘governor’s staff independently looked at these allegations before allowing him to return to his job.

‘‘In any event, my operating principle is a straightforward one,’’ McHugh said. ‘‘We’ve got a system designed to deal with allegations of criminal wrongdoing. That system incorporates the presumption of innocence. That operates in a courtroom and a fair society outside of the courtroom. I’m satisfied with the presumption of innocence.’’

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