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Frechette v. Gaudette

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 8, 2019

SCOTT FRECHETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
NORMAN GAUDETTE, ROGER BEAUPRE, and CITY OF BIDDEFORD, Defendants.

          ORDER ON CITY DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lance E. Walker U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Scott Frechette alleges Defendant Norman Gaudette sexually assaulted him in 1988, when Frechette was a minor and Gaudette was a police officer employed by the City of Biddeford. Mr. Frechette also alleges that Roger Beaupre, the Chief of the Biddeford Police Department, was deliberately indifferent to the risk posed by Officer Gaudette and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the abuse. Plaintiff filed this civil action against Mr. Gaudette, Chief Beaupre, and the City of Biddeford, asserting violations of Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related state laws. Complaint (ECF No. 1).

         Defendants Roger Beaupre and the City of Biddeford now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's § 1983 claims. City Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 85). The motion is granted for the reasons set forth herein.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT FACTS

         Defendant Norman Gaudette joined the Biddeford Police Department in 1973. He attained the rank of captain in the late 1980's and remained a member of the department until 2000. Plaintiff Scott Frechette was born in May, 1972, and grew up in Biddeford, Maine. Frechette met Gaudette in 1988 when visiting the police station to see his probation officer. The two talked and Frechette told Gaudette he had no place to stay. Gaudette contacted the city administrator and arranged for Frechette to stay at a motel. Gaudette transported Frechette to the motel and offered Frechette an opportunity to work in Gaudette's cleaning business, starting that night. Gaudette brought Frechette to a job site and returned him to the hotel later that evening. After returning to the hotel, Gaudette subjected Frechette to sexual abuse, according to Frechette, whose account is accepted as true for purposes of summary judgment.

         In 1990, Frechette made statements to Detectives Terry Davis and Dick Gagne of the Biddeford Police Department indicating that Gaudette had subjected him to a sexual assault. Later that year, Mike Pulire, an investigator with the Office of the Maine Attorney General, interviewed Frechette. In the interview, Frechette denied that Gaudette had abused him. A couple days later, when talking to Davis and Gagne, Frechette said there had been sexual contact and he explained that he was afraid to report it because Gaudette had warned him he would be in trouble if he did.

         In January, 1991, Frechette met with an attorney and a private investigator at Frechette's place of work. At the meeting, Frechette wrote a statement recanting his prior claims. According to Frechette, he was encouraged to make the recantation in exchange for assistance with certain legal matters and he thought the attorney who spoke with him was a state employee.

         In April, 1991, Frechette appeared before a grand jury to give testimony concerning his interaction with Gaudette. Frechette testified that he made a report of sexual abuse and that he wrote the statement recanting his claim of sexual abuse. The grand jury did not indict Gaudette. Sometime thereafter, Frechette moved to Florida.

         Since becoming the Biddeford Police Department Chief, Chief Beaupre has received allegations that three of his officers engaged in acts of sexual abuse: Defendant Norman Gaudette, Stephen Dodd, and Robert Devou.

         Concerning Defendant Gaudette, prior to 1990 and in 1990, the Department received reports of sexual misconduct from two persons other than Plaintiff Frechette. Plaintiff has introduced evidence that Defendant Chief Beaupre's response concerning an early report (circa 1980s) by one young man[1] had the effect of suppressing the report. Deposition of Robert Poisson at 13 - 20 (ECF No. 89-3); Deposition of Robert Devou at 29 - 30 (ECF No. 89-4). Also prior to Plaintiff's involvement with Gaudette, another person, a juvenile, reported that Gaudette sexually assaulted him while he was working for Gaudette's cleaning company. Devou Dep. at 32. In both instances, the reports were given to Deputy Chief Martin and not to Robert Devou, although Devou was the internal affairs investigator at the time. Devou recollects that the reports were simply filed away and nothing was made of them. (The reports were not recovered during discovery.) However, in 1990, around the time that Plaintiff made his report against Gaudette, Larry Ouellette[2]also reported being the victim of sexual misconduct by Gaudette. This time, Chief Beaupre made a referral to the York County District Attorney, and the matter was later investigated by the AG's Office. During the investigation, Chief Beaupre placed Gaudette on administrative leave. The investigation[3] culminated in the presentation to the grand jury, mentioned above, at which Plaintiff Frechette testified. After the investigation and grand jury process, Gaudette was reinstated to his position.

         Concerning Officer Dodd, [4] in the 1980's one individual, a foster child of Dodd, reported sexual abuse and then recanted after Dodd bought him an automobile. It appears the matter did not result in any written record or report. Another individual cooperated with an AG's Office investigation conducted in 2002, which investigation eventually yielded statements from five individuals who reported sexual misconduct by Dodd. The parties dispute whether the investigation was brought at the instigation of Chief Beaupre, but in any event, the AG's Office declined to prosecute Dodd, evidently based on the quality of the evidence and the applicable criminal statute of limitation. Nevertheless, in 2003, Chief Beaupre, through administrative action, ended Dodd's career as a Biddeford police officer. While the record indicates the Department took down statements involving two of the reports against Dodd, whatever documents the statements were written down in were not filed with other records of criminal reports or otherwise maintained. At least, Defendants could not locate any such documents in connection with discovery in this case and related cases, circa 2016.

         Concerning Officer Devou, in 2008, an individual reported sexual misconduct after Devou had retired from the Department. The matter was referred to the AG, but did not result in a criminal prosecution.

         In 2015, allegedly as the result of social media activity, Plaintiff Frechette became aware that others had made reports of sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Defendant Gaudette, including incidents that predated Frechette's encounter with Gaudette. Before learning of these disclosures, it had not occurred to Frechette that the City of Biddeford or the chief of its police department might be subject to legal liability for acts undertaken by Mr. Gaudette. Citing his own declaration, Frechette offers the following additional statements:

I had no reason to believe prior to 2015 that Chief Beaupre knew or had reason to know of Norman Gaudette's sexual abuse of juveniles before Norman Gaudette abused me. It never once crossed my mind because I did no believe until recently that a police department that I trusted would ever tolerate criminal and abusive behavior by an officer within its ranks.

Declaration of Scott Frechette ¶ 3 (ECF No. 89-21).

I first discovered that Chief Beaupre knew … about Capt. Gaudette's sexual abuse of juveniles when I saw numerous postings in social media ...

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