Judge orders subpoena for Dallemand deposition in Haiti

awomack@macon.comJune 23, 2014 


Romain Dallemand is seen in his Bibb County school superintendent’s office on Feb. 9, 2011.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com

A federal judge ordered Monday that a subpoena be issued for former Bibb school Superintendant Romain Dallemand to take part in a deposition in Haiti.

The order came in response to a request filed by lawyers representing a girl who filed suit after claiming she was raped inside a Northeast High School restroom in 2012.

The lawyers want to interview Dallemand, a native Haitian, under oath and on video before the lawsuit goes to trial.

Their request follows lawyers’ multiple attempts to contact Dallemand by phone at the Port-Au-Prince hotel where school district lawyers, and a lawyer who formerly represented Dallemand, have said he now lives, according to a motion filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The lawyers also sent a letter via FedEx, offering to pay for Dallemand’s travel to the United States for a deposition. Records accompanying the motion and affidavits show that FedEx tried to deliver the letter May 10, but it was “refused by recipient” at Dallemand’s home, the 87-room Hotel Karibe.

The case

In January 2012, the girl, 16 years old at the time, alleged that she was forced to perform sex acts inside a school restroom.

Authorities filed rape charges against seven teenagers, but they later dropped the charges and charged the girl, who is mentally challenged, with making false statements and falsely reporting a crime. Charges against the girl also were later dropped.

Prosecutors have conceded that although the girl didn’t consent to all the sex acts, they didn’t think they could overcome jurors’ reasonable doubts at trial since she didn’t initially disclose everything that happened.

The girl and her mother filed a civil suit against the Bibb County school system in November 2012, seeking compensation for medical bills and other expenses.

Their attorneys allege that she was actually the third student sexually assaulted at Northeast in the past decade. They also are seeking a court order requiring the school district to take specific action to protect students.

Jarome Gautreaux, one of the lawyers representing the girl and her mother, said Dallemand’s deposition is “very important” for the case.

“He was superintendent at the time of the incident,” Gautreaux said.

Andrea Jolliffe, one of the lawyers representing the Bibb County school system in the suit, declined comment Monday, citing the pending litigation.

Reasons for deposition

In the motion seeking Dallemand’s deposition, the girl’s lawyers contend that Dallemand likely would have rubber-stamped a districtwide safety study after the Northeast High incident and had been involved in discussions regarding prior sexual assaults at Bibb schools.

They cite a Jan. 26, 2012, email from school board member Lynn Farmer to Dallemand in which Farmer asked about safety protocols at Northeast and mentioned the school system’s $67,000 settlement of another lawsuit alleging that the school system didn’t do enough to prevent a 2008 sexual assault at Northeast.

Dallemand’s severance agreement with the Bibb school district includes a “litigation-cooperation clause,” according to the motion.

Jolliffe wrote in an April 30, 2014, letter, included as an exhibit in the motion, that although Dallemand is “contractually obligated to assist the District in defending against this lawsuit,” the plaintiffs have no standing to enforce Bibb schools’ contractual rights.

She went on to say, “The District has no means of compelling Dr. Dallemand’s cooperation under the agreement.”

Requirements of order

Monday’s court order requires Dallemand to be served with a subpoena by personal delivery and by mail in a way that includes a signed receipt.

The deposition must be conducted in July at a place no more than 30 miles from Port-Au-Prince.

If Dallemand fails to respond to the subpoena, U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell will determine possible consequences, Gautreaux said.

“It’s sort of an unusual situation.”

Gautreaux said he hasn’t ever heard of a lawyer in the United States trying to depose a witness in Haiti.

Lawyers often use video depositions, the method set to be used in Dallemand’s interview, as a cost-saving measure when witnesses are located in another state.

The discovery phase of the case -- the time when lawyers gather evidence and interview witnesses -- is scheduled to end Aug. 14.

Although the case could go to trial later this year, it’s possible there won’t be a trial until 2015.

Dallemand was superintendent from February 2011 until February 2013, when the school system bought out his contract.

A 2013 audit revealed that the former superintendent repeatedly violated school board polices from July to December 2012 by ordering more than $26 million in equipment and services without required board approval.

The audit also criticized obligations related to the Macon Promise Neighborhood project.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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