The Denver Post – Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire

Sisters win sex lawsuit vs. dad $2.3 million given for years of abuse
By Howard Prankratz
Denver Post Legal Affairs Writer

Two daughters of former state and federal law enforcement official Edward Rodgers were awarded $2.319,400 yesterday, after a Denver judge and jury found that the women suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father.

The award to Sharon Simone, 45, and Susan Hammond, 44, followed testimony of Rodgers’ four daughters in person or through depositions, describing repeated physical abuse and sexual assaults by their father from 1944 through 1965.

Rodgers, 72, who became a child abuse expert after retiring from the FBI and joining the colorado Springs DA’s office, failed to appear for the trial. But in a deposition taken in March, Rodgers denied ever hitting or sexually abusing his children.

He admitted that he thought of himself as a “domineering s.o.b. who demanded strict responses from my children, strict obedience.” But it never approached child abuse, Rodgers said. “Did I make mistakes? Damn right I did, just like any other father or mother…”

Thomas Gresham, Rodger’s former attorney, withdrew from the case recently after being unable to locate his client. Rodgers recently contacted one of his sons from a Texas town along the Mexican border. Gresham said his last contact with Rodgers was on April 24.

The sisters reacted quietly to the verdict, and with relief that their stories of abuse had finally been told.

“I feel really good that I’ve gone public with this,”Hammond said. “I am a victim, the shame isn’t mine, the horror happened to me. I’m not bad.
“My father did shameful and horrible things to me and my brothers and sisters. I don’t believe he is a shameful and horrible man, but he has to be held accountable,” Hammond added.

The lawsuit deeply divided the Rodgers family, with Rodgers’ three sons questioning their sister’s motives.

Immediately after the verdict, son Steve Rodgers, 37, reacted angrily, yelling at his sisters in the courtroom.

Later, Rodgers said he loves his father and stands by him. He said his sisters had told him their father had to be exposed the way Nazi war criminals have been exposed.

“In a way I’m angry with my father for not being here. But I’m sympathetic because he would have walked into a gross crucifixion,” Rodgers said.

Steve Rodgers never denied that he and his siblings were physically abused, but disputed that his father molested his sisters.
Before the jury’s award, Denver District Judge William Meyer found that Rodger’s conduct toward Simone and Hammond was negligent and “outrageous.”

Despite the length of time since the abuse, the jury determined the sisters could legally bring the suit. The statute of limitations for a civil suit is two years, but jurors determined that the sisters became aware of he nature and extent of their injury only within the last two years, during therapy.

The jury then determined the damages, finding $1,240,000 for Simone and 1,079,000 for Hammond.

The sisters had alleged in their suit filed last July that Rodgers subjected his seven children to a “pattern of emotional, physical, sexual and incestual abuse.”

As a result of the abuse, the women claimed their emotional lives had been left in a shambles, requiring extensive therapy for both and repeated hospitalizations of Hammond, who was acutely suicidal. Simone developed obsessive behavior and became so unable to function she resigned a position with a Boston-based college.

Despite the judgment yesterday, Rodgers cannot be criminally charged. the statue of limitations in Colorado for sexual assault on children is 10 years.
Rodgers, who worked for the FBI for 27 years, much of it in Denver, became chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in Colorado Sp;rings. during his employment at the DA’s office from 1967 until 1983, he became a well-known figure in Colorado Springs, and lectured and wrote about child abuse both locally and nationwide.

He wrote a manual called ” A Compendium — Child Abuse by the National College of District Attorney’s,” and helped put together manuals on child abuse for the New York state police and a national child abuse center.

Gazette Telegraph Section B

Sisters claiming abuse win $2.3 million. Lawsuit was act of love, women say. Two believe family now can face reality.
By Brian Weber
Denver Bureau

DENVER – A graphic courtroom airing this week was a “terrible act of love” needed to break “the conspiracy of silence and denial” that protected Edward J. Rodgers, Jr. for 46 years and emotionally crippled his daughters.

That’s how Sharon Simone and Susan Hammond explain their motivation for filing an unprecedented lawsuit against their father. They accused him of sexually, physically and emotionally abusing members of his family, the effects of which linger today, 25 years after it ended.
“It may sound awful, but I feel this was a terrible act of love for ourselves, first, for our brothers and sisters and for my father and mother,” Hammond said. “We can be real now.”

Rodgers led a highly public life, one of a role model: as an FBI agent for 27 years, then as a chief investigator for the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office for another 19, specializing in child abuse cases.
The irony and hypocrisy of their upbringing finally became unbearable, said Simone, the oldest of seven children. Private reconciliation never materialized.

“The way it was being handled in the family was a conspiracy of silence and denial,” she said. “The legal system is the way to go because he respects it. he’ll show up. He’ll fight. It’ll be fair. “It’s the only arena where he may engage.” But he didn’t. Through three days of often tearful and disturbing tales of incest and beatings, the defense table was empty. With no rebuttals, a six-woman jury took 90 minutes to award the two sisters $2.3 million in damages.

But money was never the motive for her, Simone said. “I wanted to get out of the position of colluding with my father,” she said during an interview after the trial.

“I had sanctioned (his abuse) by my silence. the lid is completely off the system we all participated in.

“If I had not pulled out of that, I would have been ill the rest of my life,” said Simone, who has been in therapy for four years and expects to continue for some time. Initially, Simone’s counselors worried that the lawsuit would be too unsettling for her. But, Simone said, “it has moved me enormously in recovery.” The court process she has been involved with for a year “forced me to deal with him.”

Catharsis was not Hammond’s motive; money to pay medical bills was. And she wanted atonement before it was too late.

“I was angry at the thought of my father dying and facing his God and receiving his judgment,” she said. “I wanted some justice and some judgment now, in this life. I wanted that for me.”

But her three brothers did not want it. They said their father beat them and that the house was filled with tension. but they adamantly denied, as had their father, that the girls were sexually assaulted.

The trial seems to have severed the relationship between brothers and sisters. As Hammond and Simone got on the elevator to leave the courthouse Wednesday, the second-oldest son, Steve rodgers said, “This is it for us.”

Hammond and Simone say they regret their brothers’ anger and estrangement. But they insist it’s because the men refuse to face the painful reconstruction of their youth.

Besides, they asked, how would they know what went on in their sister’s beds, late at night, when their father came home drunk? “It didn’t happen to them,” Simone said, adding, “the family had been fractured in a different
“I wanted some justice and some judgment now, in this life.”
and more lethal way underneath. I feel that the boil has broken open and there’s pus everywhere, and it’s better than a festering, hidden pus.”
The lawsuit’s timing seemed odd. the abuse occurred between 1944 and 1965. Why wait so long to act?
Their mother, whom Rodgers divorced in 1968, was an obstacle, Hammond said. She feared the publicity would cost rodgers his job. The family would be financially ruined, she said, urging them to wait until he retired.
“The message was overt and covert throughout. This was survival,” Hammond said. These are your parents. This is all you have. As bad as it is, you don’t know how bad it is, and where was I going to go?”
Maintaining the image of forthright cop with an overachieving Catholic family was another reason to keep quiet, the sisters said.
Rodgers and his family at times genuinely enjoyed themselves, they said. And in those years, child abuse and incest were taboo subjects.
“One reason I repressed it so long was the terrible chasm between the public image and my father and the family” in private, Hammond said.
When they reached adulthood, the children rarely visited with their father. When there was contact, “there was a lot of pretend,” she said.
And their father still is making believe, the sisters said. he has entered treatment for alcoholism that he admits prompted some of his brutal behavior. But, “he’s denying it (the sexual abuse), Simone said. “He will not acknowledge his wrong.”
They hope the family can bond again, though a family reunion seems a remote possibility. “A lot of time has to happen. I do have hope,” Hammond said.
Both women seem to have gained a perspective from their public cleansing. Despite the split family, they say it was worth it. And they seem willing to eventually forgive.
“My father did shameful and horrible things to me and my brothers and sisters. I don’t feel my father is a shameful and horrible man,” Simone said. “I feel like he has to be accountable for what he has done.
“I hope for him that he looks at the truth of his life, accepts himself and goes on, just as I intend to do.”

The Boston Globe

(Two days following “Ruling in Beverly assault case leaves scars”
Man, 23, is jailed for mailbox blast

A federal judge sentenced a 23-year-old Framingham man to 29 months in jail for illegally transporting explosives and using them to blow up a newspaper vending machine in Needham last summer. Jonathan Tefft will serve the sentence concurrently with a state sentence he is now serving. Tefft was also sentenced to two years of supervised release yesterday by US District Judge Walter J. Skinner, who called him ‘not a terrorist,’ but a person with ‘some level of personal problems.” Tefft was indicted in August on the charges.

The Boston Globe

Ruling in Beverly assault case leaves scars
By Richard Kindleberger
Boston Globe Staff

BEVERLY – The case seemed straightforward. Michael R. Ferguson, a 41-year-old former shop teacher, had pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his neighbor’s daughter on two occasions last year when she had spent the night at his house with his daughter.

When the time for sentencing arrived 10 days ago, the 8-year-old victim went to court in Salem with her parents. They had been told the sight of her attacker being led off to prison in handcuffs would help her on the long road to recovery.

But, instead of jailing Ferguson, as he had suggested he would two weeks earlier, Superior Court Judge John T. Ronan gave him a suspended sentence.

Members of the victim’s family have said they now feel doubly betrayed. A man they trusted has inflicted emotional scars on their daughter that they fear may be with her for life. And the criminal justice system has let the offender off with probation instead of sending him to jail.

‘It’s taken every ounce of strength to pursue this for 10 months,’ the victim’s mother said in an interview in her Beverly home. ‘I think it’s a scandal. It’s about the most horrible thing you can say about society that this is the best we can do to protect our children.’

Child protection specialists interviewed said deciding to spare a child molester jail is fairly common, but in their view it is a mistake. They said imprisonment is needed to make clear that sexual child abuse will not be tolerated and to assure the abuser’s victims that what happened is not their fault.

But as the case of Ferguson suggests, society is ambivalent in its attitudes toward sexual child abuse. While the child molester in the abstract is one of society’s most reviled figures, the specialists say judges and others frequently find it difficult in individual cases to believe that outwardly respectable middle-class men could represent a serious danger to children.

In Ferguson’s case, not only was the defendant backed in court by testimony from family, friends, and a psychiatrist, but his church pastor also took the stand on his behalf. Rev. Robert J. Wright of the Second Congregational Church of Beverly told the judge that a measure of the congregation’s support for Ferguson was that it elected him a deacon, a lay leadership position, a few weeks after his arrest last May.

Rev. wright in a telephone interview declined to discuss detail whether the case had been a source of controversy in the church, although he said the congregation in general had been ‘very supportive’ of the Ferguson family. He said the church was not minimizing Ferguson’s crime but rather focusing on god’s forgiveness and the belief that ‘one doesn’t condemn the sinner while one does the sin.

But Kim Wilkins of Project Rap, a Beverly social service agency, said she has heard reports the church is in turmoil because of the case. ‘I’ve heard from several people who were part of that church that it’s caused tremendous dissent, and some people are actually canceling their memberships because they’re so outraged,’ she said.

Thought hard about case
Ronan said in a telephone interview he had thought hard abut the case before sentencing Ferguson. In finally deciding against incarceration, he gave considerable weight to the half-dozen character witnesses who spoke on Ferguson’s behalf.

The fear that such offenses might continue was ‘pretty well demolished’ by the psychiatrist’s testimony that Ferguson’s crimes were isolated and unlikely to be repeated, ronan said. he said the testimony of Ferguson’s minister and friends showed a solid support system that would aid rehabilitation.

Ronan said he also had to weigh whether the community would be ‘scandalized’ if Ferguson were spared jail. he said he decided that would not be the case based on neighbors, ‘coming forward saying some pretty staggering things in his favor.’

Ferguson did not return a call to his home. His lawyer, Robert F. Peck jr., said in a brief telephone interview that ‘a lot of people…came out in support of Mr. Ferguson in spite of the nature of the charges, and I can only presume that there was a strong belief he is a man very capable of rehabilitation and not a danger of repeat behavior.’ he added that Ferguson’s 9-to-12 year prison sentence, although suspended, ‘is not exactly a slap on the wrist.’

Ferguson’s defenders have portrayed him as a solid family man and pillar of his church and community who regrettably erred in two isolated incidents when he was drinking heavily and smoking marijuana. They said he was under stress from the illness of his father, who later died.

Accusers question picture
His accusers have questioned that picture. they suggested the offenses admitted by Ferguson, who himself had been sexually abused as a child, might be part of a pattern of such incidents and represent compulsive behavior that Ferguson, having avoided jail or prison, could be tempted to continue.

On March 2 Ferguson pleaded guilty to two counts of raping a child and three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. Two weeks later Ronan gave him the suspended sentence to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction in Walpole and five years probation. Among the conditions of his probation are that his employment be approved by the probation department, that he undergo psychiatric treatment monitored by the department and that he participate in an alcohol treatment program.

The first assault occurred one night in winter of 1987-1988, according to court records. Because the victim did not report it at that time, the family was unable to pinpoint the date. But after the child’s second overnight stay at her friend’s house last may 6, her mother said, she came home to complain that Ferguson had come into the room where she was sleeping next to her friend and molested her.

The girl did not cry out and pretended to be asleep because she was afraid, said prosecutor David J. Swartz. he said the victim reported Ferguson fondled her and inserted his fingers into her vagina. Schwartz said that Ferguson, while pleading guilty to the rape charges, denied to his psychiatrist that there was digital penetration. Although a medical examination did not prove the attack occurred, Swartz said the victim – described as poised and intelligent – ‘would have made an excellent witness,’ and he felt the state’s case was strong.

Swartz said Ferguson’s offenses are considered rape because penetration allegedly occurred without the victim’s consent and because, as a minor, she was not in a position to give informed consent in any case.

Different definition
Ronan in his interview suggested that the crimes, while serious, were not the kind of forcible sexual assault that has traditionally been designated as rape. ‘What used to be called rape is now called aggravated rape,’ he said. ‘this was rape in the modern sense of the word. This wasn’t intercourse.’

But what Ferguson did to their daughter has caused traumatic and continuing repercussions for her and the family, the parents said. The mother said the girl has had trouble sleeping ever since, waking up with nightmares and until recently insisting on sleeping in her mother’s bed. Even now she needs over-the-counter sleeping medicine several times a week the mother said.

The family calculates that its financial cost for counseling, medication and income lost by the self-employed father because of court dates and other legal obligations amounts to more than $6,000. They said they plan to pursue a civil suit to recover the money from Ferguson.

Supporters of Ferguson said he had lost his job as a shop teacher, that he and his family were suffering from his notoriety and that his conviction as a sex offender would be with them the rest of their lives. His wife, saying his children needed him, begged Ronan not to send him to jail.

Loretta Kowal, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to children, said that for someone to molest an unrelated child, ‘seems to me even more out of control than to molest a child who’s lived in your house.’ She said she thought ‘putting him on probation really does give a message that sexually abusing a child is not something we take seriously.’

Wilkins said such a sentence undercuts the work of victim advocates because the victims and their parents may decide ‘it’s not worth the effort’ to come forward. ‘What that means is there’s not a lot of risk element for the offender,’ she added.