Nearly four decades after he allegedly raped a teenage student while he was a drama teacher at Milton Academy, Reynold J. Buono is again facing criminal charges after the state’s high court Thursday unanimously decided that he can still be prosecuted despite the passage of time.
Buono was returned to the United States from Thailand in 2017 after Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey and Milton police investigated allegations by a former student at the elite private school that he was repeatedly raped by Buono during the early 1980s while the teacher was tutoring him, according to court records.
Last year, a Norfolk Superior Court judge threw out all six charges against Buono, who had moved to Thailand sometime after the school fired him in 1987, ruling that prosecutors had not corroborated the student’s claims to the grand jury as required by a state law governing cases that start more than 27 years after the crime has occurred. Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Connors also ruled that the prosecutors could not prove the crimes were committed while the alleged victim was a juvenile, leading him to dismiss a total of three counts of forcible rape of a child and three counts of rape of a child.
But in its ruling Thursday, the Supreme Judicial Court partially disagreed with Connors, reinstating two counts of forcible rape of a child and two counts of rape of a child.
"By eliminating the statute of limitations for child rape, the Legislature extended the rights of victims, and by providing a threshold past which corroborating evidence must accompany an allegation at the grand jury stage, the Legislature provided protections ‘against unfounded criminal prosecutions,’ " Justice Elspeth B. Cypher wrote for the court.
“We conclude that the Commonwealth presented adequate corroborating evidence to meet the grand jury’s probable cause to indict standard,” she wrote.
Buono’s attorney, Inga S. Bernstein, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Morrissey welcomed the SJC’s ruling in a statement and said his office will now push to bring the case to a trial and “to seek justice for his alleged victim."
Morrissey applauded the former student in the statement for coming forward.
“A sexual assault victim’s courage in coming forward should not be defeated by a technicality,” Morrissey said, adding that he will push lawmakers on Beacon Hill to clarify the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.
Prosecutors want it to be "clear that in all instances, moving out of the Commonwealth stops the clock from ticking on the statute of limitations for sex crimes. Leaving our jurisdiction should not create a strategic advantage to alleged perpetrators,” he said.
Also supporting the SJC ruling was attorney Eric MacLeish, who represents six men who say they were molested by Buono as teens. He said his clients are happy the case will advance.
“In these horrible times, there is just a sense of relief and almost joy that this monster is going to face a trial,” said MacLeish.
Before he started teaching at Milton Academy, Buono worked for St. David School in New York City, MacLeish said, and he urged anyone who may have been abused by him there to come forward.
“We’re anxious to hear from people because he may be prosecuted down there,” MacLeish said.
Jamie Forbes, a Milton native now living in New Hampshire, last year publicly identified himself in a Globe interview as the former student in the case. After the judge threw out the charges last year, Forbes said he was hopeful that the criminal case had not reached an end.
“I was surprised and devastated and scared that after all this he might walk away a free man,” Forbes told the Globe last year. “I hope that there will be an opportunity for a jury to decide.”
Buono is accused of sexually assaulting Forbes during tutoring sessions at the former teacher’s on-campus apartment between Sept. 1, 1981, and July 1, 1982, records show.
Forbes could not be reached for comment Thursday.