Boston Globe
Patricia Wen and Brian McGrory 25, 2011
The founder of the controversial Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is scheduled to face criminal charges in Dedham today arising from a night in 2007 when two special needs teenagers at the center were wrongfully administered dozens of electrical shocks, according to the father of one of the victims and another person with knowledge about the case.
In a deal reached with the state attorney general’s office, Matthew Israel, 77, is expected to be spared prison time in return for stepping down from the Canton-based center that he founded 40 years ago and accepting a five-year probationary term, said Charles Dumas, the father of one of the two victims in the 2007 case who said he spoke yesterday with prosecutors. As part of the agreement, the school’s day-to-day activities will also be overseen by a court-approved monitor.
A court official who works at the Norfolk County Superior Court said that today’s schedule of cases lists a defendant named Matthew Israel facing two charges, misleading a grand jury and accessory after the fact to a crime.
The charges against Israel are believed to be related to the destruction of some of the center’s digital surveillance tapes that would have showed what occurred the night of Aug. 26, 2007, in one of the center’s residential group homes in Stoughton. That night, staffers received a prank phone call from someone posing as a supervisor, saying two teenagers, including Dumas’s son, should be administered electrical shocks as punishment for bad behavior earlier that day.
The attorney general’s office declined comment on the case yesterday, as did Ernest Corrigan, a longtime spokesman for Israel and the center. On May 2, Corrigan had issued a press release announcing Israel’s retirement, effective June 1. In the release, which made no mention of a pending criminal case, Israel is quoted as saying, “I am now almost 78 years old, and it is time for me to move over and let others take the reins.’’
The case marks a dramatic turn in the career of the Harvard-trained psychologist, though it does not appear to end the center’s unorthodox practices that have generated national controversy: the use of skin-shock treatments to discipline behaviorally troubled children.
His tactics have been condemned as barbaric and savage by many top medical and mental health professionals. But despite some injuries and even deaths at the facility, the center has continued to get state approval to operate as a special-needs school serving some 200 students with serious emotional and behavioral problems, including autism and intellectual disabilities.