In Alleged Sex Assault at Thompson Academy, Polygraph Results Are Murky

This week's New Times cover story explores allegations of abuse and violence at the Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines. One of the most disturbing allegations, outlined in a federal class-action lawsuit, involves a 15-year-old boy who says he was twice forced to have oral sex with a 23-year-old male counselor at Thompson last year.

A Pembroke Pines police officer investigated and concluded that the accusations were "unfounded."

"There is no evidence to show that a sexual battery occurred," he wrote.

But the police report itself raised a lot of questions. It noted that the investigation was

hampered because Thompson didn't report the alleged attacks when they occurred. Instead, officials waited for months, until the lawsuit was filed -- when any physical evidence would be gone and staff members had trouble remembering what happened.

The police report also said the counselor passed a polygraph test in which he was asked about the attacks. Yet an internal police memo written by the officer who administered the test, Syd McCausland, says the test results were "inconclusive."

To pass, indicating "no deception," the counselor needed a score of +6 or more. To fail and be accused of deception, he would need to get less than -6. His score was +1.The alleged victim declined to take the polygraph test.

The test discrepancy is just one more wrinkle in the complicated story of Thompson, a lockup that lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center allege is a violent, terrifying place, while state Department of Juvenile Justice officials praise it as a model institution.

No criminal charges were filed in the sexual assault case. The federal lawsuit against Thompson's corporate owner, Youth Services International, is scheduled for trial in June.

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