BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — More than 40 years after he sexually assaulted a prospective student at the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school, a former admissions officer has pleaded guilty to the charge but will serve no jail time.
Rockingham Superior Court Judge N. William Delker on Friday approved a plea agreement for 75-year-old Arthur Peekel, a former Illinois high school Teacher of the Year, whose 12-month sentence was suspended.
“While I believe that there is some satisfaction to sending someone like you who committed a crime like this to jail, no amount of jail time is going to right the wrong you committed in this case,” the judge told the court, adding that he hoped the guilty plea and sentence would change the culture and show that this “kind of conduct, no matter how long ago it occurred, will come back to roost.”
Peekel also has to pay a fine of $1,200 and register as a sex offender for the next decade.
He showed little emotion as he acknowledged assaulting Lawrence Jenkens when Jenkens visited the school as a 14-year-old in 1973. He never directly addressed Jenkens, who was in court with his family and several alumni, and he left without making any comments.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they’re victims of sexual abuse, but Jenkens said he wanted to discuss his case publicly.
Peekel was named Teacher of the Year in 1992 while at the Illinois high school. Officials there said they were unaware of the Exeter allegations when they hired him and no allegations were made against him there.
Jenkens, who later graduated from Exeter, said he pretended to be asleep as Peekel abused him. He told school authorities repeatedly about the abuse, including meeting with the principal at the time to describe it. But it was only last year Exeter referred his case to the police.
When Jenkens was interviewed by police about the abuse, he confronted Peekel over the phone. The conversation was recorded by police in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Jenkens is head of the art department at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Jenkens said Peekel apologized on the call but never acknowledged wrongdoing and suggested Jenkens was dreaming.
“I think the first thing that Arthur Peekel did was end my childhood,” Jenkens said, reading from a statement in court. “I was scared to death that night … In my experience, children who were abused were murdered … I assumed that night I was going to die.”
Jenkens went on to detail how the abuse had haunted him for the past four decades, describing how it made it difficult to form intimate relationships and how he left Exeter “not with a sense of my potential as a young man but instead with sense of grave doubt about my abilities and very little sense of self-worth.”
But with the guilty plea and sentencing, Jenkens said, he finally has closure and “understands maybe more clearly than ever before that I am a victim, that it wasn’t my fault and that I didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to me.”
Concerns about sex abuse at Exeter were first raised following revelations in March 2016 about former teacher Rick Schubart, who was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. Then, in April, another teacher was fired amid allegations he had sexual encounters with a student decades ago. Then, the Peekel case came to light.
Those cases prompted the school to launch its own investigation, leading to a report in which it identified five more former staff members accused of abuse.
A law firm commissioned by Phillips Exeter identified four teachers and a psychologist accused of sexually inappropriate behavior involving eight students from 1966 to the 1980s.
Three of the accused have died. The other two were barred from campus.
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