Randall Hinton, who with his brother, proposed the establishment of a school for troubled teens at the site of the former Kemper Military School in April 2005, has been arrested on charges of assault in the third degree, false imprisonment and reckless endangerment. The Boonville proposal was ultimately rejected by the city council following considerable public outcry.
Employees say Hinton, 32, is the director of the Royal Gorge Academy, a private school for troubled kids. He was released on $2,500 bail following his arrest. A school official said Hinton has been placed on administrative leave by the academy.
Hinton is also accused of injuring the girl's wrists and not allowing her to receive medical attention.
“And the allegation was that Mr. Hinton physically restrained a female student at the academy and that that student did suffer physical injuries from that restraint,” says Captain Allen Cooper, Canon City Police Department.
Hinton's attorney told KOAA News First television that the girl was violent and was hitting herself in the head with a stapler and tried to staple her own hand. He said her parents support the school, saying “her parents have been supportive of the Academy. The parents have notified the Academy that they're not surprised by her actions, that this young lady does have some problems.”
He maintains the allegations are untrue.
The attorney, Michael Gillick, added, “This is a boarding school not a strict detention facility. This is to help children who have problems and hopefully get them turned in the right direction.”
Gillick said the teenage girl involved in the alleged incident that occurred at the end of December was “brand new” to the school and had not adjusted to being there.
He admitted the girl was retrained using “common, legal methods” for her own safety and that of school officials, but Gillick was not able to specify the restraint techniques used.
According to the arrest report, a school employee says there's a policy of “no physical contact” between staff and students. But at least one staff member told police he saw Hinton grab a male student by the back of the head and smacked the student's face against the floor a couple of times, causing the student to bleed.
Cañon City Police Department Capt. Allen Cooper told the Canon City Daily Record his office had been of prior allegations before Royal Gorge Academy opened.
“As law enforcement officials, we are not allowed to react to things that happen outside of our jurisdiction,” Cooper said. “My understanding is there is not a lot of oversight on private schools. The process to me sounds kind of superficial.”
Canon City Police searched the internet and found similar allegations against Hinton at other private schools, including one called Tranquility Bay in Jamaica.
Some students told Canon City Police that they were told they'd be sent to Tranquility Bay if they don't shape up. They also claim they were told that American laws don't apply to kids in Tranquility Bay and that pepper spray is used there.
Gillick maintained Hinton never before has been charged with similar accusations.
“Lots of bizarre things show up on the Internet,” Gillick said. “You can read anything there and take it with a grain of salt.”
Gillick also questioned police tactics used in the investigation and said he offered to cooperate.
“I told them they could have anything they wanted, just let me know when. They chose to bully their way around and come back unannounced with a search warrant,” Gillick said. “They could have done it the easy way or they could have done it the dog and pony show, like they did.”
Cooper refuted that statement.
“The initial investigating police officer asked for certain documentation and was told the school did not have to provide it,” Cooper said. “That's why we went with a warrant.”
Gillick also charged the CCPD with “overkill” as they conducted official interviews with students at the school.
“They put all the kids in the auditorium, did not let anybody see what was going on. There were no guardians and parents were not allowed access to the children,” Gillick said. “It was just absurd, conducting official interviews under those circumstances.”
At least one parent has contacted him, Gillick said, concerned her child was interviewed without parental consent.
Cooper said it is standard procedure to interview juveniles who are not suspects without permission. “Parental consent is not required,” Cooper said. “None of these kids were suspected of anything other than being potential witnesses.”
Cooper said the interviews with students provided more information than his department anticipated.
“This did turn into a larger investigation for us than we anticipated based on the reaction of some of the participants,” Cooper said.
Hinton is due in district court Tuesday for advisement.
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