Michael Burch, a former assistant wrestling coach, filed a criminal complaint for alleged harassing phone calls Tuesday against the father of the female alum who accused William McCormick of rape in 2006. In connection with the same incident, Burch was denied a civil restraining order against the father, also an alum, in Rhode Island Superior Court on Friday.
The complaint, filed with the Pawtucket Police Department and under investigation by Detective Charles Devine, accuses the father of the female alum of harassing phone calls, a misdemeanor. Although the female alum's father is named as the suspect, the calls were allegedly made by a private investigator at his behest. Burch — who was appointed an adviser to McCormick by the University after McCormick was accused of rape in 2006 — is a witness in McCormick's suit in federal court against the University and the two alums.
He said he expects the criminal investigation to be transferred to the Rhode Island Attorney General's office in the next few days.
He complained of "numerous phone calls from blocked phone numbers harassing him about his involvement in the case," according to the police report. Documents filed in the federal civil suit show one of the numbers belongs to Manhattan-based private investigator Patrick Brosnan, who had been hired by the female alum's father to investigate Burch.
The calls came after a package was anonymously hand-delivered to the house of Burch's girlfriend in Cranston, the report states. The package contained flowers and a card inviting him to a free dinner at the Downcity Diner in Providence.
Burch turned over to the Pawtucket Police copies of Brosnan's notes, which had been subpoenaed by McCormick's lawyer, Scott Kilpatrick, after Kilpatrick filed a motion for default judgement in McCormick's suit that cited the alleged witness intimidation. That motion has since been withdrawn.
According to the notes and a deposition taken from Brosnan, the female alum's father paid several thousand dollars in 2009 to have Burch followed. In the deposition, Brosnan says the purpose of the surveillance was to ensure that Burch did not interact with the female alum, then a senior.
Anna Cordasco, a friend of the alums' family authorized to speak on its behalf, said "the family was really concerned about the victim's safety on campus, and that's the reason that (Brosnan) was retained."
Brosnan did not return a request for comment.
The Herald is withholding the names of the female alum and her father because she is the possible victim of a sex crime.
The civil restraining order
Burch said he was advised to file the criminal complaint by Rhode Island Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter when she granted a temporary restraining order Jan. 19, the week before denying Burch's request for a permanent restraining order.
Taft-Carter denied Burch the permanent restraining order against the female alum's father because he has already raised the issue in federal court, where McCormick's suit is being heard.
Burch told Taft-Carter he would represent himself because he hoped not to incur exorbitant legal fees as a witness in the McCormick case.
He testified that he believed Brosnan made attempts to "threaten and intimidate" him, and that he believed the investigator's goal was to "impart knowledge" to him that he and his girlfriend were being followed.
He called the investigator's purported plan of taking a photograph of him "far-fetched" because — according to a deposition taken of Brosnan and obtained by The Herald — no picture was ever taken and because photos of Burch are available online through his past employment at Brown. Brosnan's notes, which were subpoenaed by Kilpatrick in the federal civil suit, include a picture of Burch taken from the Internet.
"I don't object to the clients' trying to investigate me," Burch told the judge. "But this was an attempt to intimidate me."
Burch testified that he has never attempted to speak to the female alum.
Joe Cavanagh, a lawyer for the female alum's father, called Burch "self-absorbed" and a "self-proclaimed victim" seeking publicity.
"To come over here and get a restraining order from you would fit right into his plan," Cavanagh told the judge. "The last thing in the world (the investigators) ever wanted was to have Mr. Burch even know they were there."
Cavanagh noted that Burch had previously raised the issue of intimidation before a federal judge and federal magistrate Dec. 10 and Jan. 7, respectively, arguing Burch has means of protection under law other than a restraining order from the Superior Court.
"This court should just not be involved in this," he said.
Taft-Carter said she was not aware that Burch had raised the issue in the federal suit when she issued the temporary restraining order, and was "a bit taken aback" that Burch did not reveal it earlier.
Burch maintained that, though he had mentioned his concerns over intimidation to the federal judge and magistrate, he never formally petitioned them for a restraining order.
"I'm just seeking to be a witness and feel protected," Burch told Taft-Carter.
"In a federal court," the judge responded.
Taft-Carter ruled against Burch's request for a restraining order because he failed to meet the burden of proof that he had no adequate remedy at law other than the restraining order.
"Because of that, you won't suffer any harm," she told Burch. "You have a remedy available to you."
Burch told The Herald he raised his concerns in federal court "in desperation" during a hearing in which he pleaded for an extension of time to respond to a subpoena issued to him. He said he believed he was out-maneuvered Friday by the alum's lawyers.