Dec. 16, 2011
BOSTON — It seems like the accusations of sexual abuse in the sports arena just keep coming.
When Charles Crawford was 16 years old, he landed a dream job: batboy for the Boston Red Sox. It was the early 1990s, so that meant the Dorchester native got to rub elbows with hometown greats like Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn.
But before long, that dream job became the worst experience of his life.
Crawford described the first encounter on “Greater Boston” on Dec. 14. “I asked him for a ball in the clubhouse. He led me to the equipment room where only he has the key. We went into the equipment room and that’s where he assaulted me.”
The dream job turns into a nightmare
Crawford is claiming that former Red Sox club manager Donald Fitzpatrick performed oral sex on him twice during his summer tenure at Fenway. In the first encounter, Crawford said Fitzpatrick locked him in an equipment room and assaulted him while Red Sox players mulled around outside. He was, Crawford said, too embarrassed to stop it.
“I really didn’t know what to say, to be honest,” he said. “When I came out it was like everything happened so quick, the players were still in the area. But I just kind of pushed it down and kept going, you know, loving my job.”
The second experience came right before a West Coast trip the team was taking. He came in early to help pack the bats and uniforms. Later that night, Crawford said, Fitzpatrick molested him in a clubhouse bathroom.
Former attendants seek their due
Now 36, Crawford and another, unnamed accuser are suing the Red Sox for $5 million each. They are the ninth and 10th former clubhouse attendants to step forward in a Red Sox sexual abuse scandal that spans decades. All of the accusers have been African-American.
In a now infamous moment during a televised Red Sox game against Anaheim, a former clubhouse attendant held up a sign that read, “Donald Fitzpatrick sexually assaulted me.” The Red Sox paid that accuser $100,000 and Fitzpatrick took an extended leave of absence from the team. He never came back.
In 2003, the Sox settled a $3.15 million lawsuit with seven Florida men who claimed Fitzpatrick sexually molested them as boys in the 1970s.
In 2002, Fitzpatrick pled guilty to four counts of attempted sexual battery and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to each victim. Fitzpatrick died in 2005 at age 76. At the time, he was serving a 10-year suspended sentence and 15 years’ probation.
Management did nothing, lawyer says
Crawford’s lawyer is Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney best known for reaching a $95 million settlement with the Boston Archdiocese over the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. He said it was well known within Red Sox management that Fitzpatrick was a serial pedophile, but they did nothing about it.
“I’ve got him tracked from about 1967 to 1991 sexually abusing children — that I know of,” said Garabedian. “In 1971, a batboy told the Red Sox management, or equipment manager ‘I was sexually molested by Donald Fitzpatrick’ and within three days they fired the batboy and did nothing to Donald Fitzpatrick.”
When John Henry bought the team in 2002, management was replaced. The new management acknowledged Fitzpatrick was a pedophile and made sure the victims were paid out.
In the two decades since his clubhouse horror, Crawford's life has spiraled downward. He dropped out of college, spent six months in jail on a drug offense and has had five children with five different women.
He said it was Sen. Scott Brown’s admission of abuse earlier this year that inspired him to come forward.
“I held it for 16 years. I told my mom when I was 32 years old,” he said.
No legal responsibility, but possibly a moral one
But as far as his lawsuit goes, it might be too late. The statute of limitations has run out.
“A victim has three years to sue from when they realize that the conduct, the sexual abuse, caused them problems in life,” said Garabedian. “So we acknowledge that the statute of limitations has gone in these cases.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re giving up. Crawford and Garabedian are scheduled to meet with Red Sox attorneys during the week of Dec. 19 to discuss the cases.
“We’re going to see what they want to do with this matter. They have a moral responsibility here,” said Garabedian.
In the meantime, Crawford is making the media rounds. He said talking about his experiences has been cathartic, after keeping such a dark secret for so long.
“People need to know — they think about Fenway, they think about great games. But I have a whole different picture of Fenway and people just need to know what was happening there,” he said.
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