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  Ex-Bergen Teacher Faces Old Charges in Canada
Abuse Case at Orphanage Led to Scandal

By David Voreacos
The Record [Bergen County, NJ]
August 21, 2000

Ending an extradition battle, Brother Thomas Cuthbert Ford, a former Bergen Catholic High School teacher, is to appear in a Canadian courtroom next week to face charges that he brutally beat a boy at an orphanage four decades ago.

A member of the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order, Ford, 66, had spent more than a year fighting his extradition on charges that he beat the boy and four others at the orphanage between 1956 and 1959. But Ford, who taught math at Bergen Catholic from 1986 to 1996, has agreed to drop his extradition fight and to appear in court in St. John's, Newfoundland, said his attorney, William Bailey. In exchange for Ford's return, prosecutors in St. John's have agreed to drop eight counts of simple assault against him, but will retain a charge of assault causing bodily injury, Bailey said. The only count remaining will be a charge that Ford used a belt to savagely beat Edgar Hartery, 14, in a shower as a roomful of boys watched, Bailey said.

"We'd like to go as soon as possible to address this and be done with it,"he added.

Ford, who had lived in Hackensack for the past two years, is scheduled to appear in provincial court in St. John's on Thursday afternoon, said John Brooks, the Newfoundland prosecutor on the case.

Sources have said that Ford's attorney in Newfoundland, David Eaton, was negotiating a guilty plea in recent months. But it was unclear whether Ford will plead guilty Thursday, and Eaton couldn't be reached for comment.

Ford taught at the troubled Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's from 1956 to 1959. Complaints of physical and sexual abuse by teachers during that period later surfaced, and police arrested nine brothers and civilians in 1989.

Those nine were convicted, and dozens of former students came forward with allegations of abuse at the orphanage, which the Roman Catholic Church closed in 1990. Disclosures about the school's past captured Canadian headlines, driven in part by a television docudrama and multimillion-dollar lawsuits by victims.

Ford taught at various Christian Brothers 1 institutions in the United States between 1959 and 1996, including Bergen Catholic. But he went into hiding in November 1996, when he was one of seven men indicted in a new round of charges by Canadian prosecutors seeking justice for the decades-old abuse.

Prosecutors accused Ford of beating five boys, including Hartery.

"Ford just nailed me with the thick black belt,"Hartery told a detective in 1992, according to court records."He hit me everywhere.

Across the back, the arms, the legs, the whole body. When he stopped, he just walked away. The other boys in the shower room were petrified." In March 1999, Canada asked the United States to extradite Ford. Federal prosecutors in Newark asked U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to order his return to Newfoundland.

But Ford's attorneys argued last summer that his alleged crimes were simple assaults that would have drawn little jail time in the United States. Although the statute of limitations would have expired after five years in the United States, there is no such statute in Canada.

Ford's lawyers also contended that his actions were not crimes but forms of corporal punishment that were common at the time.

Chesler said he had"grave doubts"about whether he should order Ford's extradition because of the disparity in sentencing between the two countries. But he reserved judgment while the parties negotiated a settlement.

On Tuesday, Chesler signed an order that allows Ford to return voluntarily to Newfoundland to"resolve the charges that form the basis of the extradition complaint that is pending against him." Chesler also agreed to modify the travel restriction in Ford's $ 600,000 bail package, which had limited his travel to New Jersey and New York.

Bailey would not reveal Ford's current address, other than to say he lives in New Jersey.

Ford had lived until late May in a Hackensack apartment complex, where neighbors described him as quiet and friendly but also mysterious. He told neighbors he had a doctorate, which he did not, and that he was leaving to work overseas for the government to qualify for a pension. "I said, 'Send us a card, " said one neighbor who requested anonymity."He said, 'I can't do that, the government won't let me. As he was leaving, he 1 said, 'By the way, my name is not Tom Ford."

 
 

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