Suit: Breck knew of sexual abuse

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 7, 2012 - 11:38 PM

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson says convicted pedophile William Jacobs admitted in a deposition that he had confessed his behavior to Breck's headmaster.

A St. Paul attorney said Thursday that William Jacobs' admission that Breck School knew about but didn't report to police his sexual interest in children bolsters the case of a former student suing the school.

Jeff Anderson is representing Rick Covin, who filed a lawsuit April 30 alleging "fraud and concealment" by the school. The suit says Breck, a prestigious college prep school in Golden Valley, allowed Jacobs to continue teaching after he was confronted about allegedly abusing students.

Covin said he was a 12-year-old student when Jacobs began abusing him over a three-year period in the early 1970s. Covin, now 52, lives in Wisconsin. He's asking for at least $50,000 in damages.

The school moved to dismiss the case last month, arguing in part that the statute of limitations has expired and that the school had no duty to disclose to Covin what they knew about Jacobs. A hearing is scheduled for June 21. A similar lawsuit filed by another alleged Jacobs victim against Breck was dismissed in 2010 because of the statute of limitations, but Anderson contends it hasn't expired in Covin's case because Jacobs' recent revelations mean Covin just discovered the school's alleged coverup.

Marianne Short, an attorney for the school, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, a Breck spokeswoman said that the school could not comment on pending litigation and that the school is committed to protecting students.

Jacobs, 68, a former teacher and coach who also served as the Minneapolis park police chief from 1987 to 2001, was sentenced in April to 18 years in prison after he admitted to three counts each of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. He was prosecuted after a teenager came forward in January 2010 and said Jacobs had molested him for three years, beginning when he was 12, on camping trips and visits to Jacobs' house and cabin.

The charges led at least two dozen other men to say Jacobs molested them over as many as five decades while he taught at Blake and Breck schools and served as a counselor at the YMCA's Camp Warren.

On the day he was sentenced, Jacobs and Breck were served with Covin's lawsuit, although Anderson said Jacobs will not be held financially liable if he cooperates.

That cooperation included a May 31 deposition that Jacobs gave from prison in Faribault, Minn. In it, the convicted pedophile said he confessed to Breck headmaster John Littleford after the father of a 14-year-old student he molested in 1973 confronted him.

"I'm fairly sure he asked me if there was any reason why I couldn't continue to teach and not do this again," Jacobs said in the deposition. The suit says Littleford's failure to remove Jacobs from Breck enabled Jacobs to continue the sexual abuse, the suit claims. Littleford, who now runs a Louisiana consulting firm, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the deposition, Jacobs went over his history of working for schools and other entities, where he was repeatedly confronted about improper contact with children that was never reported to police. Although administrators knew of his behavior, the lawsuit alleges, it was never reported to police.

Anderson, who for two decades has represented hundreds of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy, is also representing alleged victims of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now on trial for sexual abuse.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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