Director of Judge Rotenberg Educational Center Indicted in Connection with Destroying Evidence in a Criminal Investigation
JRC Agrees to Independent Monitor to Review Policies and Make Recommendations on Changes to Protect Students in the Future
On May 20, 2011, a special grand jury in Norfolk County returned indictments against Dr. Matthew Israel on charges of Accessory After the Fact, and Misleading an Investigator or a Witness. At Israel's arraignment today in Norfolk Superior Court, he entered into a sentencing agreement for pretrial probation. Under terms of his probation, Israel is required to resign from his position as Executive Director of the JRC as of June 1, and is also 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.
As a result of its investigation, the Attorney General's Office also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Board of Directors of the JRC to appoint, at the JRC's expense, an Independent Monitor to review the events that occurred at the Stoughton facility. The Monitor, retired Judge Isaac Bornstein, shall complete an evaluation and issue a report with a determination as to whether the JRC has instituted sufficient measures to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. If the Monitor concludes that sufficient measures do not exist, the report shall recommend specific measures the JRC must institute to prevent a similar incident from happening again. The Monitor's report is due by October 1, 2011. A violation of the deferred prosecution agreement may lead to JRC's prosecution.
"We believe that Dr. Israel created a system and environment at the JRC that failed to prevent a lapse of this magnitude," said Attorney General Coakley. "Dr. Israel then attempted to destroy evidence of the events and mislead investigators, and that conduct led to his indictments today. Today's action removes Dr. Israel from the school, and should ensure better protection for students in the future."
On August 26, 2007, a series of events occurred at the JRC's Stoughton facility during which two students received improper skin-shock treatments, resulting in injuries to both students. The events represent a violation of the JRC policies as well as treatment plans. After learning that the circumstances surrounding the administration of the skin-shock treatments were improper, JRC staff notified authorities. An initial investigation was conducted by the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office and then the matter was turned over to the Attorney General's Office for investigation.
Students and staff are constantly monitored by personnel at JRC's Digital Video Recording (DVR) Center in Canton through video recording cameras installed throughout residential facilities. During the course of the Attorney General's investigation, authorities discovered that the events of August 26, 2007, had been recorded through the DVR Center's video recording system. Within days of the event, however, it is alleged that Dr. Israel ordered the recording equipment to be removed from the Stoughton house and secured in the JRC main building. Once at the JRC main building, the recording was shown to state investigators from the Department of Social Services, Disabled Persons Protection Committee, and Early Education and Care. It is further alleged that although JRC had cooperated in the past and provided investigators with videos upon request, it would not do so in this case. Investigators ordered JRC to save the video.
Authorities determined that Israel instead instructed a JRC employee to destroy the recording. Israel indicated to that employee that the investigation had concluded and that the recording was no longer necessary.
The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is a facility with locations in Stoughton and Canton that treats children and adults with behavioral and mental functioning issues. A key component of the JRC's regimen of treatment and discipline is the administration of low voltage electronic shocks by JRC staff to the bodies of resident students. Israel was responsible for many of the treatment programs at the school, including the skin-shock treatments. The skin-shocks are administered by JRC staff using a "Graduated Electronic Decelerator" (GEDs). The skin-shocks are part of the students' treatment plans and are designed to deter unwanted behavior such as self-mutilation or aggression. The JRC has received approval from the court and other state agencies to appropriately utilize this treatment method.
The case was being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Glenn Cunha, Deputy Chief of AG Coakley's Criminal Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General Marina Moriarty of AG Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division. It was investigated by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG's Office and investigators from the AG's Computer Forensics Lab. The Stoughton Police Department also participated in the investigation.