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Jaffrey-Rindge School District

Holmes tied to ’82 sex case

Music teacher paid $5K settlement

Leonard Holmes, the Conant High School music teacher who was placed on leave last month, was investigated by Jaffrey police in 1992 after a former student accused Holmes of sexual assaults that had allegedly occurred 10 years earlier. The investigation led to no arrest, but Holmes reached an agreement and paid his accuser $5,000, according to public records provided by the Jaffrey Police Department.

The documents indicate that Jaffrey-Rindge School District officials were notified of the agreement, which was finalized in January 1993. One of the documents states that a lawyer for Holmes told police that Holmes “had been placed on permanent probation by the school district as a result of these allegations.”

Superintendent Jim O’Neill declined to comment on the documents on Wednesday. He said only that the school district has no information in its files regarding an agreement.

O’Neill has declined to comment on why both Holmes and Conant High School Principal John Barth were placed on leave early in April and he did so again on Wednesday, noting that the situation with both men is a personnel issue.

Holmes did not return a phone call seeking his comment on the 1992 investigation on Wednesday.

According to the Jaffrey Police Department documents, Det. Sgt. Robert Pelio took a long-distance phone call on Sept. 25, 1992, from a person who reported being given alcohol by Holmes and being kissed and fondled more than once shortly after the summer of 1982, when the person was a student at Conant High School.

The person’s name is blacked out in the documents released, and the documents have been redacted so the person’s gender is not indicated.

According to Pelio’s report on the phone call, the accuser reported riding in Holmes’ car after school, drinking beer and “making out,” but said there had been no sexual penetration. The accuser said the encounters also sometimes took place in the high school, “commonly in the band room when no one else was around,” Pelio wrote.

Pelio immediately opened an investigation. In a document dated Sept. 29, he wrote that the alleged victim “has not made a decision whether to prosecute Holmes or not.” Pelio wrote that the alleged victim stated if it meant Holmes losing his job, the person would not want the case brought forward, but that if other victims were found, it should go forward.

On Oct. 8, 1992, Pelio spoke with John Cronin of Bennington, an attorney retained by Holmes. In a report about that conversation, Pelio wrote, “Based upon admissions that Mr. Holmes had made to his attorney, Attorney Cronin and I have agreed upon the following: 1. That Mr. Holmes will sit down with the victim...and offer an apology. The apology will be contingent upon [the victim] wanting to do this. 2. That Mr. Holmes will pay for all reasonable costs incurred by [the victim] relative...to this experience. 3. That since the statute of limitations has expired on this case, the results of this investigation will be forwarded to the school district for possible disciplinary action against Mr. Holmes. Based on the foregoing, and based upon the victim’s desire not to prosecute this matter, this case will be exceptionally cleared and closed without further investigation.”

Pelio then sent Cronin a letter outlining those agreements, adding that the agreement could be revoked if evidence of other victims came forward. Cronin agreed to the conditions in a letter on Oct 22, 1992, in which Cronin said he would be notifying Thomas Brennan, who was principal of Conant High School at the time, and John Wheeler, who was the school superintendent at the time.

On Oct. 27, 1992, Pelio spoke to a former Conant student who was a friend of the alleged victim. That person, whose name and gender are redacted in the documents provided, reported riding in a car with Holmes and the alleged victim and drinking beer with them, but never witnessing any sexual behavior.

In a series of letters between Cronin and Pelio during November and December, they worked out details of an agreement.

Holmes declined, on the advice of his attorney, to write a letter of apology.

Holmes agreed to pay the alleged victim $5,000 and on Jan. 4, 1993, the alleged victim signed a release form agreeing not to take further legal action, in exchange for that payment.

The documents shed little light on what information was actually passed on to the Jaffrey-Rindge School District.

Pelio wrote a letter on Dec. 30, 1992, which appears to be to the alleged victim, although the recipient’s name and address have been redacted. In that letter, he wrote:

“Please be advised that John Cronin has told me that Mr. Holmes has been placed on permanent probation by the school district as a result of these allegations.

“Please feel free to call me whenever you have any questions.

“I am glad things are working out for you.”

Pelio, who is retired from the Jaffrey Police Department and now works as a private investigator in California, declined last week to talk about the 1992 investigation, saying the documents related to the investigation speak for themselves.

Cronin, when contacted by phone on Wednesday, also declined comment, citing client confidentiality.

It’s unclear whether Holmes’ current leave is related to the investigation from 1992 or the alleged activities in 1982, or whether Barth’s current leave has anything to do with either current or previous actions by Holmes. O’Neill has only confirmed that both men are still on leave and he has declined to say whether they are being paid.

Barth’s salary for the current school year is $102,500 and Holmes’ salary is $60,876.

Larry Pimental, the assistant principal at the high school, and Rob Clark, the middle school assistant principal, are supervising day-to- day activities at the two schools, where Barth had been in charge. A substitute music teacher has been covering Holmes’ classes.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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