Further Details on Schragger Sexual Assault Allegations

Morning Call: The connections to the SCA figure prominently in a follow-up article concerning the alleged offenses of Ben Schragger, former East Kingdom Dean of Pages. A second article in Morning Call, a local newspaper in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, offers more details about the relationship between Ben Schragger, known in the SCA as Lord Ben the Steward, and the Shire of Eisental. The article discusses the SCA's educational mission, and the normal meeting practices of the Shire, in more depth than did Morning Call's first article on this subject.

In the new article, local Seneschal Lord Derek Fairhair (mka Paul Zona) indicates that Schragger's in-home activities were unofficial gatherings. A Deputy Seneschal of the group says that Schragger started the group's youth combat program in the late 1990s. Local officers did not comment on Schragger's official position at the Kingdom level, but web sites indicated that he was until recently the Dean of Pages in the East Kingdom. They praised Schragger's work in the youth combat program, saying that he had made it "very safe."

According to Morning Call reporter Romy Varghese, Regional, East Kingdom, and Society-level officers have not yet been reached for comment.

Related Story:
http://scatoday.net/story.php?search_id=N-20031031-184227-0002

For those interested...

I don't like saying much about this case, but there are a few things that I might add here:

1) if you have had problems with the police behaving improperly to children, please contact ben's attorney, John Waldron. His number is in the phone book or in a previous post to this article.

2) for everyone who is upset with Derek for his action, or lack thereof, I believe the phrase "sealed warrent" should settle your concerns.

Also, as a note to anyone backing Ben. First, thank you... personally, I stand behind him as my experience leads me to believe this case is quite impossible. However, please be understanding of people who are unsure or doubtfull. Certain angles and certain limited facts present a scary case against Ben and where many of these apparent problems simply vanish with more in-depth information, most of the world is not privy to this information. Everything will come out and be settled in court and it is better to support Ben than to condemn those who do not.

-A friend

Not necessarily the case

From our first story on this topic:

Lord Derek Fairhair (mka Paul Zona), Seneschal of the Shire of Eisental, is quoted by Morning Call stating that no one in the Shire knew of improper conduct by Schragger. "'Believe me, if anybody had thought anything like that was happening, action would have been taken, I'm sure,'' he said.

I can't speak for anyone in the local group, but from this statement I might conclude that the shire's officers were unaware of the situation until recently. I'm not sure where the conclusion arises that the children were afraid to talk about this situation.

Please remember that we are still talking about alleged actions. No one has been convicted of anything in this case. The shire's officers might very well have placed themselves and the SCA at legal risk by offering conjecture about something that was not, and still is not, proven in a court of law.

I'm not going to second guess what the local Seneschal and other officers did. I wasn't there, and I don't have firsthand knowledge.

--Justin

Re: Definitely not the case

Speaking as a member of the local group: Derek is absolutely furious with the Morning Call. He said certain things, the author of the story extrapolated his statements quite a bit, incorrectly, and attributed them to Derek.

Re: For those interested...

I agree, I don't think any of us wants this to come down to a line drawn with people standing on each side. I think what we all want is this to be settled in the proper place and that is the court. We must let the beliefs of the SCA continue and work towards the healing that will be needed down the road. This group has been the best thing that has happened to my family it has given us a chance to grow asa family and become close to so many people. I pray that all will work together to heal this unfortunate incident and move forward into the future

Re: Not necessarily the case

From the article, the Shire's officers were approached by the police for a list of children in Ben's Page Program. At that point, without any chance of it being considered libelous, they could have made the announcement that Schragger had been arrested and what the charges were. Newspapers report arrests all the time.

By keeping things quiet, and not making parents aware of the incident, the Shire officials have done a disservice to the Shire. If by so doing they prevented parents from coming forward to the police with additional relevant data, they may be considered to have been obstructing justice

Re: Not necessarily the case

If the officers gave the police a list of names of children, it is possible the police also insisted on being the ones to notify and interview possible victims or witnesses without being influenced by others. Personally, I'd rather be notified of such an incident in person by the police than by phone by others who very possibly don't know what is actually going on.

Re: Not necessarily the case

Derek was informed two days before the police visited a fighter practice. By then Ben had been arrested and there was little time to contact anyone. Once the police visited practice, it became their problem. Derek, I believe, behaved honorably.

My only complaint is that Derek "said" and he may indeed not have said, that he was not aware of the weekend events. That is not true. What is true is that they weren't official. Ben never claimed they were. But they also were not a secret. Whatever happened it is not fair to judge the SCA nor the local shire officials for any of Ben's wrong doing unless it becomes clear that someone made a prior complaint and it was ignored or unless there was never a background check done.

Re: Not necessarily the case

For starters, let us consider that Mr. Schragger was IN FACT arrested twice. I know that as soon as the local seneschal (Derek Fairhair) became aware the situation (the day following his initial arrest) Derek made a preliminary contact to the kingdom senechal. At this point NO charges were known, publically or otherwise. Mr. Schragger made this initial bail and returned to his home. A few days later, Derek was contacted by the Shire Preceptor of Pages about a request made by the state police for a complete list of pages and contact information. It was discussed about the legality of releasing persoanl information without prior WRITTEN permission from the parents OR SPECIFIC instruction from SCA Corporate. At this time, Derek contacted Kingdom for further instruction. He was instructed to provide the list and cooperate fully with the investigation. He was told by Kingdom that this was NOT a matter of PUBLIC knowledge and SHOULD NOT be discussed WITH ANYONE until the District Attorney made it so. It should be noted that from THIS point on the police had the list of parents and could contact parents as part of their investigation.

Soon after this, Mr. Schragger was arrested a 2nd time and committed to prison on $10 million dollars bail. This was during the 3rd week of September. There was still no PUBLIC statement from the authorities on the case. During no such time was/or has Derek been contacted by police authorities. Which, is perplexing because Derek is the father of a page as well. Derek continued to receive instruction from his SCA superiors that they were looking into a response but had not decided what to do or say.

An earlier preliminary hearing, scheduled for early October, was rescheduled for November 6th. Even at this point, charges were not made public by the police, and Derek still hadn't received any instruction from the SCA other than to cooperate with the investigation and to take make no public statements.

Derek was contacted by the Morning Call between 8:30-9:30 PM (Oct 29)on the night BEFORE the 1st Morning Call article was released. Other than repeating his instruction from the SCA and giving some information on the SCA (the same stuff any of us can get off the associated websites), Derek made no specific comments on the case.

The next morning the Morning Call's article broke and as you can see it really hit the fan. After spending a considerable part of his day trying to console his wife and child, Derek was contacted a 2nd time by the Morning Call. This time by another reporter. The reporter mentioned that the DAs press statement mentioned the workshops that Ben ran at his home. Derek again gave some simple info on the SCA and that we would get together to "teach each other" thru armor workshops, sewing get-togethers, etc. He also mentioned that for insurance reasons the SCA had deemed many of these get-togethers unofficial. This is where the reporter got his "unsanctioned activity" information. The reporter questioned Derek why he hadn't contacted the parents. Derek told him that he was under order not to comment publically and that he was cooperating with the police.

Derek notified his SCA superiors AGAIN, and was told to maintain his silence regarding the issue. At this point, Mr Schragger had been in custody for 3-4 weeks. He was already incarcerated away from the general public. SO warning parents at this point would have been too late and against specific orders from SCA superiors.

It should be further noted, that the official charges were still not known other than what was printed in the Morning Call on October 30th. Also, the police still had contact info for the parents for 3-4 weeks at this point, and for whatever reason, had not contacted the majority (or any) of parents (if the public outcry is to be believed). For all anyone knows, some parents MAY HAVE been contacted. Yet, still Derek has not been contacted directly by the police.

The first official public comment from the SCA superiors appearred in the Morning Call this week (www.mcall.com), roughly 5-6 weeks after being made of Mr. Schragger's INITIAL arrest.

Now if Derek's orders to remain silent are in question, perhaps it is worthy of debate why the police did/or did not contact the parents as well. I think Derek has been portrayed in a bad light by many people. I wonder what these people would do if they were Derek and were under orders not to speak publically. Let's keep in mind, that interferring with a police investigation and any activity that could be construed as intimidating witnesses (just contacting parents could be construed as this) carries serious felony charges.

An Insider

Re: Not necessarily the case

I believe this was discussed at the corporate level and from what I have been told SCA decided not to require these checks because it would leave the SCA "liable" in such cases. I know this sounds silly, but it is the same as your ISP not editing usergroups for child pornography. If they block one they are responsible for content in all of them.

Personally I believe if you want to work with the page program you should have to meet the individual states requirements for being a teacher's aide. Records could stay with either the Seneschal (legal SCA rep) or be forwarded to corporate.

Re: Not necessarily the case

It sould be said that if Mr. Schragger does have a previous record of some type and was allowed to work with the children then I suspect the Shire would be liable. And this should be considered as a change in policy. This isn't a what if possibility anymore, it is a done deal. And my guess is that when this is over, we shall actually see what the SCA can be held accountable for in civil court.

Re: Not necessarily the case

FYI, the SCA does not do background checks as it does not provide child care in any way, shape, or form.

Re: Not necessarily the case

Bold accusations from someone too cowardly to sign them.

This is a mundane matter. Period. Any actions taken by the local officers other than cooperating with the police under direction of Society administration would be improper. By all indications, the local officers are showing great restraint by not surrendering to a "witch hunt" mentality.

There have been allegations of wrongdoing -- not convictions. Ben deserves the benefit of the doubt as he remains innocent until proven guilty.

Re: Not necessarily the case

In regards to the interviews by the Professionals. We had the same experiance as the other post. The police attempted to get the kids alone and did not want parent supervision around. Well it also did not work in our case we stayed right there. My Child is also an older Page and has been involved with the group for a number of years. The officers told the kids what happened and did not want their answers to differ from what they wanted. If they did the officers attempted to change the kids statements and when the kids stated "that is not what I said" the officers raised their voices and called them liars. Saying that something had to happen or they would not be defending Ben this way. We allowed the interigation to go on and my kids knew they could stop it at any time. The officers further told the kids that if they didn't answer the questions right, they and their parents could be charged with obstruction of justice. I deal with law enforcment mundainly and have never seen 2 such unprofessional people in all this time. They were rude,intimidating and bordered on abusive in their treatment of the kids. I also would be hard pressed to believe any information that these officers have gathered and claim to be given with out coercion. As I said my kids are older Pages and I for the life of can't understand how younger kids could have stood up to this type of questioning.

Re: Not necessarily the case

I am sorry to hear you had such a bad experiance with the officers who questioned your children. My child was also questioned by the police and the officer we spoke to was nothing but kind. I could tell he truly cared about the children involved in this. By stating such a negative comment about the police, I feel you are the one obstructing justice by scaring potential victims from coming forward. Please let the courts decide if there was wrong doing by the police after the full story of this has come out. I am sure there is most likely much more to this case that has not come out publically yet.

Re: Not necessarily the case

Believe me I am not saying that the courts should not decide this. And also I do believe there are caring investigators out there. I believe that all the kids need to be heard from. And I also believe that we all have to listen and allow each of them to tell their story. (which ever side it may fall on). And it is not my intent to influence any one one way or the other. Nor to scare any one. Yes I have spoken with the investigators on both sides of the fence. And all I can do and as I told my kids is "TELL THE TRUTH". Tell the truth the way you know it not what someone else tells you the truth is. I hold no ill feelings towardsany one that wishes to tell their story. This letter was posted to tell the side we saw and to prevent this from turning into a Witch hunt. Please Give System a chance to work. I believe in it! But also do not be upset by the ones that do not answer or have a different experience then the one you have had. Do not believe that because the kids did not agree with the police that it is a conspiracy. or that they are covering for Ben out of fear. Nor would I try to change what the kids have testified happened to them. We need to let the system work and wait till the truth comes out in the end Thank you

Re: Not necessarily the case

"By stating such a negative comment about the police, I feel you are the one obstructing justice by scaring potential victims from coming forward."

By telling the exact truth, not one tiny bit of exaggeration, I am warning other parents not to allow their children to be bullied or abused by this particular pair of policemen. I have not only a right but, in my mind, a responsibility to warn parents when police are behaving in an abusive fashion. As you read from several other posts, a number of other parents totally corroborate my story. And who the hell are you to define "obstructing justice?" I'd say that policemen who do their best to force children to lie are doing FAR more to obstruct justice than a parent who points out that something wrong is going on. I'm glad your kids weren't verbally and psychologically intimidated by this pair - but mine were, and I'll be damned if I'll just sit here and let it happen without making damn sure other parents are aware of what is happening. I don't need a court to tell me when cops are abusing their authority and trying to force kids to tell whatever story the cops want to hear.

Re: Not necessarily the case (Professionals et al)

When I posted earlier about professionals, I meant professionals trained work with child witnesses to listen and: to not intimidate, not frighten, not LEAD, not threaten. Questioning child witnesses is difficult at best, and if the police have behaved in this case in the manner that has been posted, they have done a disservice to their case, to ALL of the children (regardless of what side of the fence they are on), to the parents, and to the accused.

I'm very proud of the parents that would not allow questioning of the children without their presence. I'm even more proud of the children who withstood this treatment. This type of behavior from the police, this type of questioning- is EXACTLY why I had hoped that professionals had handled this matter. I have worked with abused children and the courts. This is NOT how it is supposed to be handled.

Re: Not necessarily the case-background check

No one suggested that the SCA did provide child care. That isn't the issue. If you are letting adults work with children you should have that. If Ben has a record I can promise you the SCA will be held liable. They may be even if he doesn't. You can gripe all you want, but if this turns out to be even remotely true and Ben has a record, the SCA will scrambling before the media and the rest of the country to explain how this could have happened.

You know, if there are 13 there will be more. It just takes one to stick. To some degree it doesn't matter if they stick or not. This story is a national one and if more kids come forward making accusations this wil be on the news for a long time to come and every action the SCA has taken will be scrutinized.

Re: Not necessarily the case-background check

I understand what you are saying but please look how you are saying it. If someone reads this article that you have written and doesn't read it clearly it comes off like you are saying Ben has a record or are insinutating he might. This type of wording, speculation can cause more damage then good. Now lets just follow your logic. What happens if you do your background check and nothing what so ever comes of it. that there is no record and this situation arises, Guess what this does not clear any one or any group from lawsuits or scrutinization by any means. We need to let the courts decide what is true and what is not. We need to support the youth of the SCA they are the ones that need to be understood. They are torn between 2 different groups . By this I mean they have Ben who they have worked with him over the years and respect him a great deal. He has been involved with hundred upon hundreds of kids in a program that he himself started.And seeing friends that they have known for years having to make such statements in court.

"As for the statemnet that if there are 13 there will be more"

Non of us know this non of us know how many are even involved. Because if you read different articals you get different counts different statements.Please let the courts decide and do not speculate on what we have no knowledge of. I have Seen many kids grow up in this organization, many have gone on to be very productive adults. I believe this is due to what they have learned through this organization and the ideals it teaches. This by no means that every one involved is above reproch. this happens in any organization, Please express your views but be careful of how you words things and how it may look and understood by others. As I always believe it is not what you are doing all the time it is how it is preceived by the rest of the world. You may think it is innocent or no big deal but others may perceive it differently and this is how situation arise. Thank you

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

"If the officers gave the police a list of names of children, it is possible the police also insisted on being the ones to notify and interview possible victims or witnessess.."

I hope very much that this is the case. I understand the upset of the parents, but there is a VERY good reason for professionals explicitly trained in these types of matters to do the questioning. In their fear and haste, parents can unintentionally influence the beliefs of their children as to what may or may not have happened. This harms both the child/family and the accused. If people start talking amongst themselves, it becomes difficult for truth to be seperated from heresay. I am not criticizing parents, or group members, or the SCA for not "sharing". I think it is in the best interest of the victim (be that the children or Ben or a combination of both) to have the most qualified people working to get to the bottom of this. I would hope though, given the nature and scope of the investigation, that the "officials" would contact all the relevant parties ASAP. One would think that if a particular group was being investigated, all the relevant parties (the children in this case) would have been interviewed during the investigation as quickly as possible, and possibly before charges were made. That may not have been possible in this case.

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

Re: "Professionals" interviewing the children. In our case, the so-called professionals *did* interview a child - aggressively and brutally - doing everything but dragging out a rubber hose. The policeman who did the interviewing first tried to prevent any parental oversight. When he did not get away with that, he used techniques more suitable to interviewing a drug or murder suspect than a possible victim of sexual assault. The interview was done in a very accusatory manner - as though the child were a perpetrator rather than, as was suggested, a "possible victim." The interviewer's voice was very loud, his physical distance very close to the child, head thrusting forward like a bulldog. Instead of open-ended questions, allowing the interviewee to tell what did or did not happen, the cop asked very leading questions, a la "Did he touch your penis?" (real non-leading, yes???) Then, when the child said "no, he didn't", the cop's response - VERY loudly and aggressively, was "You're a liar." THIS is a fair and balanced interview????? The entire interview followed this format. The only reason I allowed it to continue was that I was standing there and knew my child could call a halt when he wanted and that I wanted my child to have the chance to stand up for himself and have his say as long as he was "keeping it together." However, though he is an older page, my child later stated he was "very intimidated" even with me standing there. I cannot imagine how a young child -- most certainly a very young child - could possibly have withstood this "third-degree" without agreeing to anything this pig suggested. For that reason, I consider any testimony this particular interviewer elicited to be badly tainted.

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

Anonymous Re: "Professionals" You are not alone. There are more of us out here that have had the same experience as you and your family. The "Professionals" were more interigators of an inquistion then careing law enforcment. Challenging every word the kids told them and in our case also wanting the parents out of the room for the questioning. Raised voices and statements that the kids are liars. That the kids are protecting Ben because they are afraid. We also let our kids have their say and I also knew they could stand up for themselves. When the police knew that they could not intimidated the kids they decided to leave stating that we had all better be ready, because they were getting ready to start charging people with obstruction of justice because they were not getting the answers they wanted. We reminded them that innocent until proven guilty is still the banner here in this country. They left in a huff and said that we didn't have any idea what we were doing and these kids would come around and tell the truth sooner then we think. as they know that there are more kids out there. I have dealt with a lot of law enforcment in the past due to my mundain job and most of them I would say 98% have always be Professional in their demenor. The ones I have dealt with here are any thing but professional they are intimidating and aggresive. In their treatment and questioning of these young people. I have seen a sample of their gathering information and I am hard pressed to believe any testimony or information gathered by these interviews obtain from any one.

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

Yes - what you are saying jibes *exactly* with what happened in front of me on my front porch. I'm still appalled. I can't imagine what the hell these turkeys superiors are thinking, but every bit of testimony garnered by this ass***e has got to be considered badly tainted.

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

Any of you who have had an experience like this should IMMEDIATELY contact John Waldron at 610 435-9790. He has just informed me that he would welcome your calls.

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

Have you taken your concerns to the Police Department, prosecuter's office and defence lawyers?

Re: Not necessarily the case-excellent point

John Waldron has my report. He also knows I will testify, under oath, to the manner in which these two policeman (well, one - the other just stood there) attempted to "manufacture" evidence. I realize the way these two are working has nothing to do with guilt or innocence of Ben Schragger, but what I saw certainly gives me MUCH pause about the validity of any testimony unless I know how it was initially acquired.

Re: shragger sexual assault

I think you ought to go woth that old American axiom "Innocent until proven guilty" - your comments are an insult to the Shire.

Seneschal job, in circumstances like this

For the record, neither I nor SCAtoday.net are taking a "side" in this discussion, and also for the record, this post speaks for me as an individual and not as SCAtoday.net staff.

I've been a Seneschal, at multiple levels of the organization, continuously since 1994. It is a very difficult job when modern-world legal matters happen. I don't know what Derek did or said, but I can tell you that he is under a huge amount of stress right now because I've seen what this sort of situation does to the Seneschal of a group.

Whether or not people agree with Derek, and whether or not they think Schragger is guilty or innocent, I would counsel patience, courtesy, and forbearance. A Seneschal, even one with a lot of experience, is still a volunteer, and still a member of the SCA that we all know and love. And he or she tries to the best of his or her ability to do what's right. Derek deserves the benefit of the doubt here, and support rather than condemnation.

Justin

shragger sexual assault

i am horrified that the shire did not notify the parents of children in the page program that these events happened and about the arrest -- they had to learn from other scadians and the news!!! -- the children were afraid to talk about anything they knew because they are either in denial or are afraid they won't be able to act as a group anymore -- what a horrible series of events -- and not a good reflection on the shire for their apparent lack of concern about the parents or the children