The father of one of the three Conestoga football players charged in the broomstick sodomy scandal has broken his silence. He’s publicly calling on Chester County DA Tom Hogan to take action: either set a court date or drop the charges.
“Enough is enough,“ Dorian Ross tells SAVVY. “It’s been five months. We want closure.” His son heads off to college in a few weeks and deserves to have this “dark cloud” resolved, he says.
Claiming he needed more time, Hogan postponed a pretrial conference set for May 12 until further notice. But since then, Ross says neither he nor his attorney has heard boo from the DA.
He says his family turned down two offers of a “consent decree” plea deal, wherein his son would plead guilty to lesser charges and could eventually get his record expunged. “We would have had to admit guilt and we’re not doing that,” Ross says. “My son did nothing wrong. The DA wouldn’t have offered plea deals if they had solid evidence to convict.”
Suspended for 10 days when charges were filed, Ross’ son and the other two defendants, now Stoga graduates, remain on “pre-adjudication supervision” and have to check in with Chester County probation officers each week. Ross says his son’s grades dropped in the final marking period at Stoga and he doesn’t want the stress and distraction to carry over into college.
Also making waves is a video of a conversation between the alleged victim, Stoga’s only freshman football player, and one of his older teammates, secretly recorded by the teammate as the two rode a SEPTA train.
We viewed the tape with an attorney. Our verdict? No decision. It’s inconclusive and contradictory, not to mention impossible to hear at times over the train noise.
Here are the relevant, audible parts:
Teammate: You told your dad it wasn’t true.
Freshman: Yeah… People are talking. It was being investigated. Stuff’s coming out…people are admitting things; that’s why it’s still going on. They believe it now; they believe that it happened.
Teammate: Why don’t you just tell your dad to go to the cops and tell them it didn’t happen? I’m confused.
Freshman: He’s not going to. He wants to go through with this.
Teammate: Why – if you told him it wasn’t true?
Freshman: Let me send you this voice recording when he was talking to my mom…
Teammate: How do you feel about this? It’s not true. You’re not only making us look bad, but you’re making the whole team look bad … I’m not mad at you but you gotta fix this, dawg. You’re the only one that can fix it.
Freshman: You don’t know my dad.
Teammate: He’s pretty much taking this thing and running with it.
Freshman: Yeah. He wants to take it and he’s running with it.
Teammate: Even though you told him it wasn’t true.
Teammate: That’s f— d up. You had to realize what you’re saying. You said you said it out of anger. What happened that day? Why’d you just pop up and say it?
Freshman: I don’t know. Something happened that day. I was like I must’ve been upset about something, then I told my dad that it happened. [inaudible] It happened. It happened.
Teammate: You’re confusing me. You said it did happen and it didn’t happen.
Freshman: At first I said it did happen, but I didn’t think he was gonna do nothin’ about it. Now, over this last month, that’s all he’s been pursuing…. I never wanted it to get this big …this is my dad. This is all my dad. Ask anyone that knows my dad and my family; my dad’s a nut.”
The DA accepted the video into evidence last spring and gave copies to defense counsel as part of discovery.
“The video shows a scared kid, confronted on a train by a fellow student trying to make him feel guilty,” said First Assistant DA Mike Noone, in a statement. “This case never depended solely on the victim. There are multiple eyewitnesses to this assault. Multiple other students gave recorded statements to police that these juveniles assaulted the victim with a broom.” Noone goes on to say that “law enforcement has to deal with inconsistent statements by witnesses in many cases … some victims are scared; some are intimidated.”
Meanwhile, the Conestoga community is buzzing about a story published last week in the school newspaper that some believe shows a motive for the sodomy accusation.
The article details an ongoing dispute between the accuser’s family and the T/E School District.
According to The Spoke’s investigation, the father of the alleged victim lodged the sodomy accusation just days after the T/E School District presented him with a $13,000 bill and threatened criminal charges if he failed to pay it. The hefty bill was the total amount the district had paid to educate his son, who, according to a private investigator hired by the district, hadn’t lived in T/E’s boundaries for nearly a year.
Spoke editors Andy Backstrom and Caleigh Sturgeon laid out the following timeline:
Week of Nov. 3: Tredyffrin Police announce sexting charges against three students. One of them is the only freshman on Stoga’s varsity football team who, a few months later, would claim that senior players had sodomized him on Oct. 15.
Nov 10: T/E holds an expulsion hearing for the freshman defendant and issues a “waiver of expulsion,” agreeing to pay for the student to attend Buxmont Academy, a private school for troubled youth, as long as he continues to live in the T/E School District.
Jan. 12: T/E notifies the student and his father that a private investigator hired by the district found that the student hadn’t been living in the district since March of 2015.
Jan. 28, 2016: A T/E residency hearing concludes that the father lied to the district about where he and his son lived. T/E demands to be reimbursed for every day the student attended Conestoga and Buxmont as a non-resident: $70/day for Stoga, $136/day for Buxmont. The district threatens to seek criminal charges if the father doesn’t pay the $13,443 in 30 days.
By Feb 5: The father tells T/E officials that his son was sodomized with a broomstick in the Conestoga locker room for refusing to participate in a “No Gay Thursday” locker cleanup on Oct. 15. T/E notifies the Chester County DA.
Feb. 17: Father sues T/E to halt collection of the tuition reimbursement. A Chester County judge schedules a hearing on the matter on March 4.
March 1: T/E agrees to suspend its collection of the $13,443.
March 4: Chester County DA Tom Hogan announces sodomy/hazing charges.
March 6: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the student accuser is one of four boys charged in sexting scandal. Hogan insists “no evidence suggested” a link between the alleged hazing case and the earlier sexting charge.
Fast forward to August. Ross and other football families say their patience is wearing thin. “With all the stuff that’s surfacing, we’re optimistic that charges will be dropped.”
If that’s the District Attorney’s plan (and the reason he has yet to hold a hearing), he sure isn’t saying so.
“The prosecution is moving forward with the cooperation of the victim,” reads Assistant DA’s Noone’s statement. “The case was charged only after an intensive investigation” and “has been reviewed by detectives, police officers, law enforcement, supervisors, juvenile unit prosecutors, prosecutor supervisors and the assigned trial prosecutors. As in all cases, charges were not brought lightly. The specific charges in this case were filed after considerable review, thought, and consideration.”
Noone concludes with a sentence that even Dorian Ross might agree with: “Now it is time for the court to consider all of the evidence.”
So, it’s August – time for Knox Bridge (aka the Covered Bridge) to finally reopen, right?
Tredyffrin Township just announced that the project – the emergency rehab of a main sewer line into Valley Forge Park – won’t be finished until the end of 2016. So the bridge stays shut and the detours/closures along Routes 23 and 252 will remain in effect for another five months. Ugh.
In brighter traffic news, PennDot just opened all six lanes of Route 202 between the Rte. 401 and Rte. 30 exits. So, except for some punch-list stuff, the decade-long, $266 million Rte. 202 widening project is basically a wrap. Who’s throwing the party?
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza opened in the Wynnewood Shopping Center this week, its second Main Line location after Wayne. Not your typical pizza joint, Anthony’s has a full bar and dishes up “Italian soul food” served family style, in addition to its 12” and 16” pies.
Beginning Sept. 1, Lankenau Medical Center will be a certified Level 2 trauma center. Main Line Health says the designation “greatly increases” the chance that locals will get lifesaving treatment during the crucial “golden hour” after traumatic injury occurs. Paoli Hospital has been a Level 2 trauma center since 2010.
The Rosemont Square Shopping Center has LOTS of empty space – more than 5,000 sq. ft. of it – now that the Rosemont Farmer’s Market is no more.
Open for less than two years, the place – an assortment of takeout food stalls – never really caught on.
The name’s always been a bit of misnomer because the RFM never had the fresh produce, seafood and poultry vendors you’d expect at farmer’s market.
“The takeout line at MOMS Organic Market (next door) usually had more people in it than all of the farmer’s market,” reports SAVVY Street Teamer Aly Ricker. What will she and her pals miss most at the farmer’s market? The Jerk Pit chicken.
A bigger, brighter Main Point Books is now open at the old Reader’s Forum space on N. Wayne Ave.
Leaving yet another empty storefront in downtown Bryn Mawr.
Truly, mom and pop shops (in Bryn Mawr and points east) seem to have their pick of primo downtown spots these days.
Gripe all you want about the price tags on all those new “walkable downtown” condos and townhouses, one thing seems clear: Main Line merchants sure could use the foot traffic.
Chesterbrook folks have been pining for a food market in their ‘hood ever since Genuardi’s closed six years ago.
Now they have the next best thing: a supersized Rite Aid.
Open since last Thursday, the new store has seriously beefed up its provisions, carrying everything from organic milk to an assortment of Special Ks. There’s also a drive-thru window and a RediClinic offering vaccines, physicals and routine care.
The pharmacy has longer hours, too – it’s open weekdays until 10.
Downtown Berwyn is going to look mighty different in the not-too-distant future.
From where we’re sitting, it looks like a change for the better.
Two businesses on the north side of Lancaster Ave., neither one especially pretty – Fritz Lumber and behind it, Mack Oil – are going bye-bye.
After 153 years, the fifth-generation family-owned lumber yard – Berwyn’s oldest business – is in the middle of a liquidation sale and tells SAVVY they’ll likely close for good in mid-August.
Swooping in to bulldoze and redevelop the 1.8-acre site, much of it fronting Rte. 30, will be Eadeh Enterprises. Eadeh’s everywhere on the western Main Line – it owns and manages 100+ strip centers, office buildings and apartments from Wayne to Exton.
The company was due to settle on the Fritz property this week, according to company president Stacey Ballard.
Eadeh’s still kicking around plans with its architects but Stacey shared a few clues:
- The first floor will be retail, to include, fingers crossed, a café and/or restaurant.
- The upper floors will either be residences, offices or, hold onto your hats, a boutique hotel. (Yup, what didn’t fly at Devon Yard is on at least one drawing board for Berwyn.)
- In accordance with zoning regs, the project won’t be taller than 55 feet or four stories.
- It should look like it belongs in Berwyn. “It won’t be a George Jetson box … We’re not going the contemporary route; we want to keep it charming … We want it enhance the walkable downtown character of Berwyn Village.”
- Parking – some of it possibly underground – will be part of the project.
- It may or may not include the Berwyn Tavern. A beloved watering hole since 1959, the independently owned BT sits right in the middle of the Fritz parcel. Designing around it looks like a challenge, to say the least. Stacey says Eadeh hasn’t had any formal discussions with the BT but “obviously, if we have a great plan, it might be a good partnership.” Hmmm.
It’ll take at least a year to get the land development plans approved by Easttown officials, but it’ll be well worth the wait, Stacey assures us. “It’s very exciting. It’s going to change the face of downtown Berwyn.”
Works for us.
Meanwhile, Wayne-based Stonehaven Homes wants to build twins and townhouses behind the Fritz lumberyard. Stonehaven owner John McGrath has a contingency deal in place for a little over six acres: Mack Oil’s 2.7 acres and the wildly overgrown 3.5-acre Armstrong property next door.
After three meetings with neighbors, Stonehaven owner John McGrath tells SAVVY he’s now on his 7th or 8th sketch plan.
Running his ideas up the neighborhood flagpole is a smart move – given this tight-knit group’s opposition to high-density development.
We got a sneak peek at McGrath’s latest plan, which should go before both Tredyffrin and Easttown planners next month. (The property straddles the two.)
At least on paper, it doesn’t look especially dense – 16 townhomes running along the rail line, 24 twins and three single-family homes on Francis Ave. A pretty far cry from the 88 townhouses a developer wanted squeeze on the site back in 2007.
Got a wee one gaga for American Girl dolls?
Come fall, you won’t have to take her to NYC for the full AG experience. An American Girl retail store will debut in the King of Prussia mall Sept. 10.
To keep the rapturous mayhem in check, AG will hand out a limited number of same-day entrance tickets for opening weekend, Sept. 10-11. No tickey, no entry.
Kiddos get a free gift and a chance to work on a craft. Grownups get earplugs – nah, just joshing.
The fine print: it’s a pop-up store only. AG says it’ll ship out of KOP at the end of January 2017.
A SAVVY shoutout to the good sports at Focus Fitness Main Line for adding another FREE weekly class – Nia Holistic Dance – for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. The studio holds free RePose yoga classes for the same worthy bunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.