BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — More than 40 years after he sexually assaulted a prospective student at the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school, the former admissions officer has pleaded guilty to the charge, yet will serve no jail time.
Rockingham Superior Court Judge N. William Delker on Friday approved a plea agreement for 75-year-old Arthur Peekel, whose 12-month sentence was suspended. He also has to pay a fine of $1,200 and register as a sex offender for the next decade.
“While I believe that there is some satisfaction to sending someone like you who committed a crime like this to jail, no amount of jail time is going to right the wrong you committed in this case,” Delker told the court, adding that he hoped the guilty plea and sentence would change the culture and show that this “kind of conduct, no matter how long ago it occurred, will come back to roost.”
Peekel showed little emotion as he acknowledged assaulting Lawrence Jenkens — identified in court as LJ — when Jenkens visited the school as a 14-year-old in 1973. He never directly addressed Jenkens, who was in court with his family and several alumni of the New Hampshire school. Peekel left without making any comments.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they’re victims of sexual abuse, but Jenkens said he wanted to discuss his case publicly.
Peekel went on to teach at an Illinois high school, where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1992. Officials there said they were unaware of the Exeter allegations when they hired him, and none were made against him there.
Jenkens, who later graduated from Exeter, said he pretended to be asleep as Peekel abused him. He told school authorities repeatedly about the abuse — including meeting with the principal at the time to describe the abuse. But it was only last year when Exeter referred his case to the police.
When he was interviewed by police about the abuse, Jenkens confronted Peekel over the phone. The conversation was recorded by police in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Jenkens is head of the art department at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. While he apologized on that call, Jenkens said Peekel never acknowledged wrongdoing and suggested Jenkens was dreaming.
“I think the first thing that Arthur Peekel did was end my childhood,” Jenkens said, reading from a statement in court. “I was scared to death that night … In my experience, children who were abused were murdered … I assumed that night I was going to die.”
Jenkens went onto detail how the abuse had haunted him for the past four decades, describing how it made it difficult form intimate relationships and how he left Exeter “not with a sense of my potential as a young man but instead with sense of grave doubt about my abilities and very little sense of self-worth.”
But with the guilty plea and sentencing, Jenkens says he finally has closure and “understands maybe more clearly than ever before that I am a victim, that it wasn’t my fault and that I didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to me.”
“I feel validated after 43 years of not telling this story,” Jenkens told reporters. “I agreed to the plea terms. I think the judge was right. No months in jail really makes a difference at this point in time. It’s his reputation.”
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