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St. Paul’s graduate faces 12 sexual assault-related offenses dating back to 1970s

Monitor staff
Published: 2/25/2019 1:27:03 PM

A St. Paul’s School graduate is accused of sexually assaulting two children on the prep school’s Concord campus in the 1970s.

Benjamin Baker, 61, of Falls Church, Va., was taken into custody Monday morning in Virginia and charged with being a fugitive from justice. Fairfax County Police Department – which serves northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. – took Baker into custody on a warrant issued by the Concord Police Department, charging him with 12 sexual assault-related offenses.

Baker faces extradition to New Hampshire, where he will answer to five counts each of felonious sexual assault and deviate sexual relations, also a felony. Further, Baker faces one count each of aggravated felonious sexual assault and misdemeanor sexual assault.

Concord police Lt. Sean Ford said the department’s investigation of Baker began in June 2017 when St. Paul’s administrators contacted police upon learning about allegations of sexual abuse, dating back decades. That abuse is alleged to have occurred both during Baker’s years as a high school student and after he graduated in 1974.

“Through the course of an exhaustive investigation, detectives determined that the alleged suspect, Mr. Baker (a school alumnus) had access to young (juvenile) children on campus,” Ford said in a statement Monday afternoon.

By phone, he explained that a member of the victims’ family worked for the prep school and that often faculty and staff employed by St. Paul’s live on or near campus with their families – a practice that continues to the present day.

As part of their investigation, Concord detectives traveled to Virginia to gather additional evidence to corroborate the victims’ stories. Through their work, Ford said, detectives “uncovered very disturbing behaviors allegedly perpetrated by Mr. Baker against young victims.”

Under New Hampshire law, minors who were sexually assaulted by an adult have until age 40 to pursue criminal charges and until age 30 to file a civil lawsuit. However, there are exceptions to the rule; the clock stops running if the offender leaves the state. That was true in this case, Ford said.

“We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to bring charges here,” he said. “There are other victims whom we can’t bring justice for. This really highlights the need to not have a statute of limitations in sexual assault cases.”

Sexual assault victims often wait years or decades to report because of feelings of fear, shame and humiliation, and because they worry they won’t be believed, Ford said.

“In the 1970s, if sexual abuse was shared, it was often dealt with in an unofficial capacity,” he said. “This case wasn’t reported to the school or law enforcement at the time.”

A long-standing history of sexual abuse at St. Paul’s is detailed in three reports released since May 2017 by Boston law firm Casner & Edwards at the request of the school. St. Paul’s commissioned the law firm to investigate claims of faculty-student abuse after Rev. Howard “Howdy” White, a former St. Paul’s School teacher, was fired from St. George’s School in Rhode Island for sexual abuse of a student in the early 1970s. White was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Since the law firm began its work, nearly 70 victims of sexual abuse have come forward to tell their stories, but alumni say the reports provide only a glimpse of the toxic culture that threatened student safety for generations.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office launched a criminal probe into the school’s handling of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations in summer 2017, in part, citing the Casner & Edwards reports and sexual-conquest games among students to include the “Senior Salute.” The state investigation found evidence of criminal wrongdoing; but in lieu of charges, an agreement was reached that places the school under government oversight for the next three to five years.

Baker will face a judge Tuesday in Virginia. Upon his return to New Hampshire, he’ll be arraigned in Concord’s district court.

Police ask anyone with information to contact Lt. Ford at 603-225-8600 or the Fairfax County Police Department’s major crimes bureau at 703-246-7800.

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