On Monday afternoon, the Citadel released a thick packet of documents detailing a sexual misconduct accusation against and subsequent investigation of Louis “Skip” ReVille, who was a counselor at a summer camp hosted by the school in 2002. According to one former camper’s testimony, ReVille lured boys into his room on the Citadel campus with pizza and Chinese food, showed them pornography, and coerced them to masturbate.
The Citadel case came into the spotlight after ReVille was arrested Oct. 28 for the first of what would eventually become five separate charges of sexually abusing young boys. Before his arrest in Mt. Pleasant, he was an assistant headmaster and coach at Coastal Christian Preparatory School.
A central question is whether the military school could have done more to stop ReVille before he went on to allegedly abuse more children. After the father of a former camp attendee came to the school with complaints against ReVille in 2007, the camper himself told the school’s attorney, “I don’t want [ReVille] to do to another kid what he did to me.”
The Citadel paid for its general counsel attorney, Mark C. Brandenburg, to visit ReVille’s then-19-year-old accuser and his parents en route to Charleston from a conference in San Diego. Brandenburg sat down with the family and a court stenographer on July 1, 2007, and conducted a two-and-a-half-hour interview that he insisted at the time was “not a deposition.”
According to the transcript of the interview, the camper said ReVille drew him into his room when he was 14 years old. ReVille, then 22, had graduated from the Citadel earlier that year, and he had returned for a second summer as a camp counselor.
On his application for the position in 2001, ReVille expressed an interest in teaching tennis, swimming, and basketball, as well as helping to run the camp newspaper, drill team, and variety show. He listed qualifications including Red Cross lifeguard training, CPR training, and three years’ experience as a summer camp tennis instructor at Pinetree Country Club in Trussville, Ala. A background check came up clean.
ReVille wrote on the application that he preferred working with 12-to-14-year-old boys.
By the time ReVille applied for a third summer at the camp in 2003, he seemed to be getting a little bit slaphappy with the process. In the space reserved for “Special Qualifications,” he wrote, “5’11”; brown hair; brown eyes; athletic; can cook, recite poetry, dance; enjoys walks on the beach.”
In 2007, Brandenburg conducted the interview in conversational language, gently nudging the former camper toward talking about what was usually referred to as “the incident” from 2002. By this time, the camper had moved out of his parents’ house and was working at a small grocery store, and the parents used more emotional language than the boy himself.
He said he decided to attend the camp in 1998 after visiting the school campus with his family in 1997. His father was a Citadel graduate, and “we noticed campers marching around, and I was interested and thought it might be something I’d like to do,” he said. When he attended in 1998, at age 10, he looked up to some of the counselors and enjoyed the structure of the six-week program: the sports, the barracks lifestyle, the trips to the mess hall.
The first time he recalled problems with a counselor was in 2000, when he says one of the head counselors kept showing up to morning formations looking drained and hung over. “My section and I, like, noticed him being kind of weird, suspicious, and we were asked questions about that, and we gave honest answers, and it led to his being fired,” he said. He said another counselor was fired in 2002 for selling a bag of grass to some campers and telling them it was marijuana.
Still, he enjoyed the camp overall, and his parents chose to enroll his brother and sister as well. But he said the summer of 2002 changed the path of his adolescence. It was then that he noticed strange things going on in ReVille’s bedroom, an especially large space known as the Battalion Commander’s Room that overlooked the parade ground. “It started out, it kind of seemed like, playing favorites,” he said. He heard that ReVille was inviting certain campers into his room and buying them Chinese food and pizza. Those campers also seemed to get special privileges, like free rein over the barracks at night, as long as they kept coming by his room.
One night after lights-out, he and a friend crept past the gallery watchmen and made their way to ReVille’s room. They got Chinese food that night, and he said they talked with ReVille for a little while before heading back to their room. A few nights later, they went back for more.
“He ordered Chinese food,” he recalled. “And then he started telling us that he wanted us to spend the night in his room. And he just said, you know, you guys can stay the night here. You’ll stay the night here. Then he started showing us things on the computer. He wanted us to go to the computer. He started showing us things. He started bringing up pornographic videos, and then he started talking about masturbation and how masturbating makes your penis smaller and all these weird things.”
He said it was at this point that ReVille pulled out his own penis and started masturbating, asking the boys to join him. Feeling uncomfortable, he stood up and said he was going to ReVille’s bed to fall asleep. It was at this point that he said ReVille “kind of got a little bit aggressive.” He said he finally caved to the request — and immediately felt violated.
The camper told no one. In fact, he returned to the camp in the summer of 2003, and he assumed junior counselor positions in 2004 and 2005 before finally quitting the camp in 2006. At one point, he himself was on night watch duty in the barracks, making sure campers stayed in their rooms after lights-out.
He told Brandenburg that he avoided contact with ReVille for the remainder of 2002 and saw him only once in 2003, when they exchanged brief pleasantries in the Deas Hall fitness center and parted ways. But in 2007, he still talked about the single incident in the counselor’s quarters as the point where he “crossed over to the dark side.” He returned home as a high school freshman that fall and started getting into trouble with marijuana and alcohol. His grades, which had been straight A’s before the incident, tanked into C-and-D range.
His parents took him to psychologists and psychiatrists. They thought he had Attention Deficit Disorder. Other parents asked what had happened, and they were at a loss for explanation —until the spring of 2007.
“We were having a deep conversation,” the former camper recalls. “My mom started crying. She didn’t understand why I was making these decisions. And I just said, ‘Mom, I’ve got to tell you something that happened to me a few years ago that I haven’t told anybody,’ and I told her.” The mother called her husband, who almost immediately called the Citadel to report what had happened. In interviews with Brandenburg, all three family members said they meant no ill will toward the school but wanted to make sure that ReVille could not hurt any more children.
Speaking with Brandenburg, the father brought up the fact that his son had applied to college at the Citadel but that, because of his dismal grades, he had been denied admission. “I think this young man deserves for the Citadel to take another look at him,” he said. By this point, his son had dropped out of high school but had earned his high school diploma through a remedial program. He said he had been clean of drugs and alcohol for months by the time he spoke with Brandenburg.
According to Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, president of the Citadel, Brandenburg tried to contact other campers to corroborate the claims he had heard. “After initial communications were not returned, it was understood they did not want to speak with us,” Rosa said. “However, we should have more aggressively sought out individuals able to shed light on the incident.” He says the camp staff, when questioned, spoke highly of ReVille, who had been elected Honor Court chair and received a graduation award for public service during his time as a student. ReVille denied the camper’s accusation. And once again, he had a clean background check.
Rosa said the school handed over what information it had to Charleston Police Department last week and hired New York-based Guidepost Solutions to audit the school’s internal handling of the matter.
Mullins McLeod, the Charleston lawyer representing the camper and his family, criticized the Citadel administration for failing to turn the case over to police in 2007. “Let me be clear that the Citadel investigating itself is no investigation at all,” he said. McLeod said that more recent instances of child sexual abuse might not have happened if the Citadel case had been handled differently.
“This fellow was a part of this community,” McLeod said. “He coached all across Charleston, and the victims are coming forward almost on a daily basis. Had the Citadel reported him, as the law required, this community would have been on notice, and there is a very good chance he would have never coached or taught in this area again.” The South Carolina law to which he referred requires certain professionals — including school teachers, counselors, principals, assistant principals, and school attendance officers — to report potential child sexual abuse cases to authorities when they hear about them. Other professionals who work with children are encouraged, but not required, to report.
As for the camper and his family, Rosa said Monday that the Citadel stopped communicating with them after they stopped showing an interest in enrolling at the school. Rosa said administrators had recommended certain classes and programs to help get the former camper into the school, but that he had not heard from the family since making the recommendations.
In his 2007 interview, the camper said he knew of at least five other boys who had fallen victim to ReVille’s scheme at the summer camp, which closed down after other sex scandals rocked the program in 2006. He also said he remembered seeing younger boys coming and going from ReVille’s room at night.
“My problem is not with the Citadel,” he said. “I respect no one more than the Citadel graduate. I — honestly, that school is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. But at the same time, something did occur at the camp that changed my life dramatically.”