A 2007 sexual assault case is coming back to haunt Carl Stanley McGee, the new acting director of the state gambling commission, after McGee’s former boss said that McGee had been falsely accused by a 15-year-old boy.
The young man’s family was enraged that former Patrick administration official Daniel O’Connell said on Tuesday that the boy’s allegation that McGee assaulted him in a hotel steam room was false. To support their assertion, family members released the results of a 2008 investigation by Florida child welfare officials recommending that McGee be prosecuted.
The teenager was vacationing with his family at an upscale resort in Florida when the alleged assault occurred. McGee was arrested at the time, but the prosecutor declined to file charges over the family’s objections, claiming a lack of evidence.
O’Connell’s comment “brings back all the pain and makes me feel victimized all over again,’’ the young man said in a statement to the Globe. “I reported the matter immediately to police detectives in Florida. They have always believed and supported me.’’
The gambling commission, known as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, is standing behind McGee, 43, a Rhodes scholar and a graduate of Harvard Law School who has worked for Governor Patrick since 2007. On Tuesday, he was named interim executive director of the commission where he will be paid $121,000, the same salary he made with the administration.
Commission chairman Stephen Crosby said the panel was aware of the allegation when it decided to name McGee as the panel’s executive director. Crosby said the charge had been fully investigated by the Florida state attorney, who decided not to prosecute.
“That office was responsible for investigating and prosecuting the individual’s complaint,’’ said Crosby, in a statement. “We learned that that office investigated this matter over a period of 12 weeks and that upon completion of their investigation, they had no evidence that would corroborate the allegation. We learned a decision was made to drop the case and no charges were ever brought.
“The commission is comfortable with and stands by its decision to retain Mr. McGee as both appropriate and in the Commonwealth’s best interests,’’ said Crosby.
On Tuesday, O’Connell, who was secretary of housing and economic development when the accusation against McGee was lodged, said in a Globe interview that the department reviewed the matter when no charges were filed.
“We were completely comfortable that Stan had been falsely accused, and we welcomed him back,’’ he said.
Neither McGee nor O’Connell returned calls on Wednesday.
The family’s lawyer, Wendy Murphy, said the family was “shocked and offended’’ by O’Connell’s comments, noting that McGee paid to settle a civil lawsuit by the family separate from the criminal case. The terms of the agreement are confidential.
“The boy involved in this matter was not only a child under the age of consent in 2007, but also was particularly small for his age,’’ said Murphy. “Carl Stanley McGee was a married man at the time, nearly 40 years old.
“The victim in this case has tremendous integrity,’’ she said. “Today a university student, he was awarded a prestigious honor in high school as a student with impeccable honesty and dedication to his community.’’
McGee was arrested and held overnight after the alleged incident at the Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande on Dec. 28, 2007. He was released on $300,000 bond after declining to answer questions from the police.
McGee was then placed on unpaid leave from his job in the Patrick administration as assistant secretary for policy and planning, but later returned to work after the state prosecutor’s office declined to prosecute.
When the boy’s parents complained to the Florida governor’s office, an investigator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement took a second look at the case and recommended the state attorney reconsider.
“I have been in law enforcement for over 34 years and investigated crimes against children cases exclusively for the past 25 years, and I have seen cases successfully prosecuted with less evidence than this case appears to have,’’ wrote Inspector Terry Thomas of the state’s Crimes Against Children Unit.
Thomas cited several factors: The boy “made a timely report, positively identified the suspect, was consistent in his statements, was fearful of the suspect and at no time indicated he had any consensual sexual contact with the suspect,’’ Thomas wrote. Even if he wanted to, the boy cannot give consent for sex with a 39-year-old, Thomas wrote.
He recommended the state attorney reconsider the prosecution of McGee for sexual battery on a child under 16 and add the offense of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 16.
A now-retired police officer who worked on the case said he absolutely believed the alleged victim, who he said looked 11 years old at the time.
“I had 25 years on the job,’’ said the former officer with the Lee County sheriff’s department, who asked that his name not be used because he still has business with the agency. “I’ve been BS’d my whole life. I can tell. His body language, his demeanor. He was visibly scared. I remember him sitting there on the corner of the couch in a fetal position, crying and shaking.’’
Why the state prosecutor did not bring charges was “the $64,000 question,’’ he said. “Somewhere between Massachusetts and Florida. . . . I don’t know what happened. It’s above my pay grade.’’
When the state prosecutor declined to file charges, the young man’s family filed suit in 2009.
As interim director, McGee is expected to serve for at least several months, handling many of the unglamorous administrative tasks needed to set up a brand new agency, such as making sure the computer system is working or interviewing candidates for the office staff.
He is also one of the Patrick administration’s most knowledgeable advisers on gambling issues, though McGee said on Tuesday that he saw the temporary post “as a blocking and tackling position to help the commission set up.’’
McGee will be permitted to apply for the permanent position if he wishes, but the commission has been clear that it prefers someone with substantial experience overseeing the gambling industry and may recruit from states that already have established casinos, such as New Jersey or Nevada. The commission will hire a search firm to look for candidates.