Charges Against Judge Rotenberg Center Founder Stem From Incident at JRC's Stoughton Facility
Judge Rotenberg Center's founder, Dr. Matthew Israel, responds to indictment, allegations.
Canton's Judge Rotenberg Center is making headlines across the nation once again. The school for special-needs children, located at 240 Turnpike Street, has been in the spotlight over the past decade for controversial shock-therapy treatments practiced at the facility.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley unsealed a criminal indictment. Yesterday, the center's Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Matthew Israel, was arraigned in Norfolk Superior Court, according to the attorney general's office.
The charges stem from an August 2007 incident at the JRC's Stoughton location when two students were administered "improper skin-shock treatments."
On Friday, May 20, a special grand jury returned indictments for Israel "on charges of Accessory After the Fact, and Misleading an Investigator or a Witness," according to the attorney general's office. The JRC founder entered into "a sentencing agreement for pretrial probation," according to the statement from the attorney general.
Israel is charged with interfering with an invesigation, specifically the destroying of surveillance tapes.
The terms of the sentencing also require Israel to resign from his position as of June 1.
According to Coakley's office, he will be prohibited from "working for the JRC or serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He was ordered to serve probation for five years. Should Israel violate the terms of his probation, he could be further prosecuted."
On August 26, 2007 in the Stoughton facility, "two students received improper skin-shock treatments, resulting in injuries to both students," according to the attorney general.
According to the Boston Globe, one student was shocked 77 times, while the other was shocked 29 times. The students were 16 and 19 years old at the time of the incident. A prank caller, posing as a supervisor, ordered the shock treatments, the Globe reported.
However, Israel is refuting the claims and allegations against him. In a statement today given to Patch, his Defense Attorney Max Stern said his client is not guilty.
"Dr. Israel is not guilty of any offense," Stern said. "He should not have been indicted. The claim that he tried to cover up a crime is entirely without substance."
Stern said Israel reported the incident to the police. The founder went in person "within hours after it happened and immediately offered to show them the videotape," his lawyer said.
Stern said Israel "cooperated fully" with investigators and provided them access to the video tapes "for many hours over six weeks."
The tapes were destroyed "only after the investigators had conducted an 'exit interview' with JRC personnel and only after Dr. Israel was informed that the investigation was complete, with no adverse action to be taken," Stern stated.
"Nothing like it ever happened before or since," the lawyer said. "Since the incident Dr. Israel has worked with all appropriate agencies to implement additional safeguards which will prevent any similar incident from occurring."
Stern said the charges against Israel are "not warranted," however, the founder has agreed to the conditions stated by "the Attorney General in order to allow the school to continue its mission of assisting individuals with unique behavioral disorders."
One long-time opponant of the center and its practices is Senator Brian A. Joyce.
According to Joyce, "One child was shocked 29 times, another 37 times, sometimes while restrained, causing burns so severe that they needed to be hospitalized."
“For forty years, Matthew Israel has profited by and made a career of preying on the most vulnerable of our citizens, our disabled children," Joyce said in his statement. "In just the past ten years, Israel’s JRC spent over $15 million on lawyers, members of my own profession, to protect an enterprise that generated over $400 million in revenue during that same period. That career is now brought to a shameful end."
"But the practice of applying what the United Nations determined to be “torture” on innocent and helpless children continues," the senator said. "This week, I anticipate that the Massachusetts Senate will again pass safeguards to protect these defenseless special needs children. I call upon Governor Deval Patrick and Speaker Robert DeLeo to join Senate President Therese Murray and my Senate colleagues in standing up for these vulnerable disabled children.”