Academy alleges libel, slander
By Vic Vela, Caņon City (CO) Daily Record, July 7, 2007

Royal Gorge Academy attorneys have submitted a notice to several local government entities, claiming the private school was the victim of libel and slander, and are asking the defendants involved to pay $1 million dollars in damages.

The notice was received this week by Caņon City and Fremont County officials, including City Attorney John Havens and County Attorney Brenda Jackson, as well as Caņon City Police Department and the Department of Human Services.

The Pueblo law firm of Gradisar, Trechter, Ripperger, Roth and Croshal, which represents the Academy, claims the school's "reputation... has been damaged and has suffered financial loss" because of a January Caņon City Police Department investigation into Academy co-director Randall Hinton.

The notice states CCPD and DHS representatives, during the course of the Hinton investigation, "advised" students' parents "to remove their children from the (school) and libeled and slandered the Royal Gorge Academy."

Among the "untrue statements" made by officials were that the Academy was not an accredited school and that a diploma from the institution would have "no more value than a GED," the notice alleges.

It also states CCPD and DHS investigators told parents "that the quality of education at the Royal Gorge Academy was inferior."

The school claims "numerous parents removed their children from the Royal Gorge Academy, causing financial loss."

The notice complies with the Colorado Government Immunity Act, which, per the state statute, requires a party that believes it has suffered injury by a government entity to file a written notice of the alleged claim within 180 days of the date of the injury.

The notice has been filed with the state attorney general's office as well, per requirement of the statute.

No lawsuit has been filed at this point in the process. But, the notice preserves the plaintiff's right to file suit, if necessary.

Havens would not comment on the merits of the complaint, but said such matters often include parties that may not necessarily ultimately be involved in a potential lawsuit.

"In order to preserve the right to file suit, a lot of plaintiffs' attorneys get out the shotgun and put as many parties as they can on notice."

Phone calls placed to plaintiffs' attorneys requesting further information were not returned by press time.

The Academy opened in Caņon City in the spring of 2006. The school houses teenagers who have been sent to the school by their guardians for various reasons, including behavioral and academic problems.

Hinton currently faces misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment charges stemming from allegations that he was abusive toward students at the boarding school.

Hinton is scheduled to appear in county court Aug. 27 for the start of a trial where he faces seven counts of third-degree assault and two counts of false imprisonment.

Hinton has pleaded not guilty to the charges.



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