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News & Views - Jun, 1996 Issue #40 

ROCKY TOP CASE LINGERS
Phone Interview with attorney Chuck Watson
May, 1996
by: Lon Woodbury
208-267-5550 

(On September 11, 1995, police from Anaconda, Montana questioned the students and staff at Rocky Top Academy, a small private school outside Anaconda Montana. As a result, they arrested Tom "Finucane" Gregory, told the parents from around the country to come get their children, and seized the files, computers, and all records of the school. Later, on October 25, 1995, they filed seven felony charges against Tom "Gregory" Finucane including Deviate Sexual Conduct, Burglary, and Deceptive Practices (See WR issue #37, December 1995, p. 2, and WR issue #38, February 1996, p.12). This is a status report on the progress of this case. WR will monitor the developments in this case that has implications for all private schools and programs working with children with emotional/behavioral problems). 

Chuck Watson, the Bozeman, Montana attorney retained by Tom, feels in a legal sense, "Time is on the side of Tom." He feels that as time goes by, the State's case against Tom is gradually unraveling. Despite eight months to investigate and to build their case, there still is "no smoking gun in sight." This means that no solid basis has been found which can prove any of the charges. One boy has recanted his original testimony, and Watson feels the others are of dubious validity. He also observes that the similar wording of the original statements, both by the boys and staff, have so many similar phrases that it suggests the possibility of coaching. 

Watson is very confident of the strength of a 4th Amendment defense for Tom, which in the US Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, and demands reasonable "probable cause" before a search can be done. 

Watson says the "probable cause was very weak in the first search" of Rocky Top Academy, and was even weaker in the following searches. According to legal precedent, a search done without adequate "probable cause" is illegal, and anything consequently seized cannot be admitted in Court and is judged to have been held illegally. 

In other words, according to attorney Chuck Watson's view, the State did not have even a plausible possibility of a case when they obtained the search warrant, and have been unable to develop much of a case even after seizing, holding and investigating all of Rocky Top's records. 

He speculates that the school might have been targeted by the authorities for reasons other than the charges that have been filed, and asks if the kids have been manipulated. 

In the meantime, while the legal system slowly grinds its way through its procedures, the school records are unavailable to the students, the authorities have not given back his personal property, and Tom is unable to earn a living due to this cloud of charges hanging over his head and the need for him to prepare his defense. 

The latest development has been reported by Gregory. He reports he took a privately administered lie detector test last month and that he passed it. This would support his denials that he had done anything that he is being charged with. 

Copyright 1996, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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