More alleged abuse victims testify at Scott Muir trial
Editor's note: This story contains graphic details that may be upsetting to some readers.
PITTSFIELD -- One by one, four females who said they were abused as young children by an administrator at Stockbridge Plain School and Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington, told their tales in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday.
Three of them, now teenagers, and a woman who is now 20, explained in graphic detail how former Student Support Service Coordinator Scott Muir allegedly took advantage of them when they were in a basement office where he was supposed to help them.
Three of them were in fourth grade in 2003-04, and another was in third grade in 2005-06, when the alleged incidents happened.
The three alleged victims follow six other women who testified this week about incidents with Muir, including a teenager who was in second grade at the time, and alleged he penetrated her digitally.
They spoke of being asked to sit on his lap, after which he would allegedly grope and molest them. They alleged that he gave them multiple piggyback rides during recess, where he would touch them in private areas.
They told the court how their former teachers would allegedly send them down to his office repeatedly, over their protests.
Three of the alleged victims broke down sobbing at various times during their testimony. Two of the women required a recess from court to regain their composure.
The first to testify was the 20-year-old, who came forward with accusations against Muir back in 2004 while she was in the fourth grade at Stockbridge Plain School. The case was investigated by former principal Robert Putnam and state police, but no charges were brought against Muir. Muir continued working in his job until 2007, when his position was eliminated, Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Joe Yorlano said.
"He made me straddle him," said the 20-year-old alleged victim. He would touch her thighs, back and buttocks on numerous occasions in his office, she said.
Other times, he would allegedly place her hands on top of his pants where she could feel his penis, she said.
The students said they were sent to Muir's office by their teachers for infractions such as socializing, passing notes or arguing with others. Often, they were taken out of class by Muir himself without any explanation, they said.
Two of the students who testified on Friday said they were sent to the office repeatedly by former Stockbridge Plain School fourth-grade teacher Virginia "Ginny" Passetto. One of the students said she told Passetto that she felt "uncomfortable" with Muir but was told to go to his office anyway.
Passetto testified earlier this week that she was told by a student that Muir touched her buttocks, but Passetto said she thought the girl said it in a "light-hearted manner."
One former student, now 19, who complained about being molested in 2004, said she was asked to straddle Muir repeatedly. In one incident, she alleged that she and another girl both were asked to sit on Muir's lap at the same time with their legs wrapped around him. He rubbed her thighs, under her shirt, stomach and her clitoris through her pants, she alleged. "I was afraid to say no," she said. "It felt uncomfortable. I didn't like it."
A third witness, now 17, who attended Muddy Brook Elementary School, said she was sent to Muir's office 10 to 15 times while in Lorraine Roman's third-grade class in 2005-06. She said she was offered candy by Muir, and was then forced to straddle him. He then rubbed her all over her body, she said.
All three said they were given piggyback rides by Muir during recess, though they never asked for it. One said he only gave them to young girls. After picking the girls up, he allegedly touched their buttocks and rubbed other parts of their bodies, they said. Some said he would reach under their skirts.
One of the 19-year-olds, who was in the fourth-grade class of Kathleen Gillis at the time, said she was sent to the office of Muir 15 to 20 times. She was asked why she didn't resist Muir in his office. "He was authority over me," she said.
"I didn't think anybody would believe me," said the 20-year-old. "I was 9 years old. I didn't know what was going on myself."
For most of the testimony, Muir sat with his head down, though he would occasionally look up at the victims. He was asked to stand up during the cross examination of each woman by his attorney William Rota, who would ask the victims how they wrapped their legs around Muir while sitting on his lap.
During the cross-examination, Rota asked the victims to pinpoint exactly how many times they went to Muir's office.
Two parents of the victims also testified, though Judge Daniel Ford didn't allow them to talk about phone conversations they had with Passetto.
Five of the alleged victims' families have filed a claim against Muir and the Berkshire Hills Regional School District through the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination alleging sexual harassment, and a failure by the district to protect them.
One member of the jury excused themselves from the trial for personal reasons on Friday, the second to do so.
Muir faces 20 counts, including rape of a child with force and indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.
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