New Lawsuits Filed against N.H. Clergy

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 24, 2002

A Virginia man says a teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Nashua raped and molested him in 1974, once in front of another teacher, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit says Brother Roger Argencourt admitted to the police that he molested Jeffrey Linton, then a freshman at Bishop Guertin High School, but said charges could not be filed because the statute of limitations had expired.

Argencourt could not be reached for comment. He was the school's student activities director when the allegations surfaced last month, but left the school immediately, the school said in a written statement last month.

Linton, 42, lives in Afton, Va. His lawsuit, in Hillsborough County Superior Court, seeks $5 million in damages, and accuses the school and the religious order that operates it, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, of conspiring to conceal the abuse.

Linton's lawyer, Peter Hutchins, said school officials told him they were unaware of the abuse before January. The lawsuit disputes that, saying they knew or should have known much earlier.

A member of the religious order, reached at its headquarters in Burrillville, R.I., said Argencourt is living in Maryland and didn't know how to reach him. A call to Brother Leo Labbe, the school's president, was not immediately returned.

According to the lawsuit, Argencourt molested Linton as many as 40 times during a three-month period while tutoring him in history. Most of the alleged assaults took place in Argencourt's bedroom, which was attached to the school.

But one took place in a bathroom inside the school, and was seen by another pupil, the lawsuit said.

"In addition, on at least one occasion ... another brother-teacher at the school walked in unexpectedly, observed what was occurring and walked out. On that occasion, Argencourt locked the door and continued the sexual abuse," the suit alleges.

The lawsuit did not identify the pupil or teacher who allegedly witnessed the assaults. Hutchins would not identify them.

Hutchins said Linton left the school at the end of his freshman year and never told anyone about the abuse until November, after he learned Argencourt was trying to contact him. Hutchins did not know why Argencourt was trying to reach Linton.

After Linton went to the police in January, they interviewed Argencourt. Hutchins said the teacher admitted to at least 20 to 30 assaults involving Linton, as well as an assault on another student during the same period.

Authorities say the statute of limitations also has expired in that case. The second alleged victim has not sued.

Argencourt told the police he disclosed the assaults twice to counselors, one in Hudson, and one in New Mexico during a 100-day "renewal session" in 1978, according to the lawsuit.

Labbe said in a written statement last month that Argencourt had not taught at the school for several years, but lived there and was working there until January.

Argencourt formerly taught history and was head of the social studies department.

Hutchins said Linton is in therapy and counseling.

Similar allegations recently were made against two other Guertin teachers, Brother Guy Beaulieu and a brother whom authorities have not publicly identified.

Beaulieu, a mathematics teacher and golf coach who began teaching at the school in the 1970s, moved to the brothers' retirement home in Burrillville in 1990.

Authorities are investigating accusations that the pair sexually assaulted pupils as young as 14 between 1977 and 1978.

Bishop Guertin was all-male until 1992. It has about 800 pupils, mostly from New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.


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