Ex-Somerville High student sues to clear name in 2013 case
Rape charge dropped but stigma still haunts him
A month after turning 17, Galileo Mondol was accused of a hideous crime — sexually assaulting a boy at a school-organized retreat in the Berkshires.
Prosecutors alleged that Mondol and two other teenagers from Somerville High School took a broom handle and tortured freshmen boys as fellow students looked on.
He was kicked off the soccer team and suspended from the high school after the 2013 assault. News cameras filmed him as police took him from his Somerville home in handcuffs. He faced penalties as severe as life in prison for rape of a child.
Mondol denied the accusations, and last April the Berkshire district attorney’s office quietly dropped the charges, saying it was in the best interest of justice. Now Mondol and his parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, saying that Somerville’s mayor, in his capacity as an assistant football coach who was present at the camp, and two other officials knew about past hazing incidents.
The $1 million suit alleges that Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Anthony Pierantozzi, the school district’s superintendent at the time, and soccer coach George Scarpelli violated Mondol’s civil rights by engaging in a zealous campaign to have him arrested, and manipulating witnesses and victims into giving misleading statements to police.
“The defendants conspired to conceal and cover up the hazing,” the complaint states, “because they understood that such conduct raised serious questions about their role in facilitating it and recklessly allowing it to occur.”
The lawsuit states that Curtatone spoke to the students about hazing, even handing out an antihazing pledge, because he and the others were aware of past problems with hazing, and “knew there was a high risk of such incidents reoccurring in 2013.”
Despite that awareness, the suit alleges, no adults were in the cabins to supervise the students.
Curtatone has previously said the assaults took place in a cabin during a transition period between daytime activities, and that they happened as coaches were on the other side of the door.
A spokeswoman for Curtatone said Friday she did not have information on the lawsuit, which was filed late in the afternoon. She declined to comment.
Messages left Friday for Pierantozzi and Scarpelli were not immediately returned.
The accusations have plagued Mondol for the past two years. Search the Internet for his name and photos of him flanked by police appear. At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where he is now a senior, fellow students point at him in the hallways and whisper, he says.
“Everyone always assumes that I’m a rapist,” said Mondol, now 19. “It feels like I’m always a step behind because of this stigma that follows me.”
In 2013, Mondol transferred to Somerville High School because he wanted to join its premier soccer team.
The weekend of Aug. 23 that year, he and 60 other boys from the freshman, junior varsity, and varsity squads boarded buses to attend a “team-building” camp in Otis, a town more than 100 miles west of Somerville.
On Aug. 25, prosecutors alleged, Mondol and two 16-year-old boys forced their way into the cabin where the freshmen boys were staying. One of the 16-year-olds grabbed a broom, forced a freshman onto the floor on his hands and knees, and raped him with the object, they said.
Prosecutors said Mondol initially told the two other older students to stop, but once the assault was underway, he changed his mind and asked for the broom. The older boys, prosecutors said, then tried to assault two other freshmen, who fought off the attacks.
After his arrest, Mondol was kept alone in a cell for a week and then released on $100,000 bail, according to his complaint.
Somerville officials told the media that the incident was horrific, but isolated.
“I assure you, this was not systemic,” Pierantozzi said at the time. “I believe it’s isolated. . . . This is definitely contrary to the culture of our school district.”
However, in his complaint, Mondol said the assault was the culmination of a weekend of disturbing acts that he witnessed while the adult chaperones were not around.
The day of the assault, Mondol said, he sat on a bunk and watched as two 16-year-old boys teased the freshmen boys, who laughed. One of the freshmen pulled down his pants and mooned the 16-year-olds, but he winced when he was poked with the broom and scrambled onto his bed. One of the older boys told him to come down. The boy obeyed and pulled down his pants.
Mondol said he whispered to the 16-year-old not to do it, but the boy laughed at him.
Mondol said that later he told the victim, who had been crying and bleeding in the bathroom, to tell someone.
School officials, however, did not learn of the incident until a freshman told his mother what happened, according to the lawsuit and earlier accounts of the incident.
Police reports reveal confusing and contradictory statements from witnesses and victims that suggest they were manipulated by Somerville officials, according to the complaint filed by Mondol and his parents.
The two 16-year-old boys pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery, and were committed to the Department of Youth Services.
On April 24, three days before Mondol’s trial was supposed to start, the Berkshire district attorney’s office told the court that it would not prosecute the case.
In a telephone interview Monday morning, District Attorney David F. Capeless said the victims and their families agreed with the decision. “During the course of the investigation, there was some conflicting information about [Mondol’s] involvement and culpability,” Capeless said. “After the two other defendants plead guilty and were sentenced, it was decided it would be in everybody’s best interest to end the case right there.”
“It shouldn’t have gone as far as it did,” Janice Bassil, Mondol’s criminal defense attorney, said. Prosecutors “should have taken a much harder look at the case and at the facts.”
Mondol enrolled at Rindge and Latin in September, after his family moved to Cambridge. He had hoped to join the soccer team and achieve his dream of playing for a scholarship. But soon after practice began, the coach told him he could not try out because of his age, a statement his family doesn’t believe because other 19-year-olds have played for the team in the past. The athletic director at Rindge declined to comment.
“There have been days where Rindge is great and there are kids who really advocate for me and could care less what happened,” Mondol said in an interview. “And then there are days where it’s pretty miserable and everyone is looking at me and I just don’t want to be in school.”
He plans to change his name. He said he scored high on the SAT and hopes to get into New York University or a large state school far away where he can blend in.
“I’ll be able to move on,” he said. “Which will be really great.”