Judge allows accused child predator to attend RIT; school responds
Henrietta, N.Y. (WHAM) - Should a New Hampshire man accused of repeated child sexual abuse be allowed back on campus at Rochester Institute of Technology, pending his trial?
The judge overseeing the case has given his approval, even though he has been issued an order of protection that might apply to some other students on campus.
"I think it's a disgusting crime, and I think that it shouldn't be dealt with on our campus," said Rachel Mahoney, a senior from Utica. She said she had no idea a fellow student - in her same major of study - was also an accused child predator.
Joshua Pouliot, 21, is just beginning his senior year in chemistry and biomedical research at RIT. While on campus this fall, his phone rang. It was a call from detectives in Londonderry, New Hampshire, who wanted to talk to him about the abuse of a child some four years earlier.
"On August 13, we began this investigation after the alleged victim spoke to a family member about what happened," said Detective Chris Olson of the Londonderry Police Department.
Police say over a two year period, Pouliiot raped and sexually assaulted a boy who was nine years old, sometimes forcing him to the ground. Some of the alleged incidents occurred at New Hampshire's Puckaway State Park.
The child, who is now 13, has come forward, and also says another young family member was abused.
"We are still working on this investigation, as we believe there may be a second victim," said Detective Olson.
Pending his trial, the judge granted Pouliot permission to leave his home state to return to RIT, even though the same judge has also issued a restraining order preventing the 21-year-old man from having unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18.
"I believe there are 17-year-olds on campus," said Elliot Patnode, another RIT senior. When asked if that was a concern, he told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch, "I think it's probably a different scenario than a 9-year-old."
"That's definitely a concern. Even the academic buildings are being used by high school students for competitions. They're here all the time," she said.
RIT could not speak to this specific case, citing student privacy. However, the university has the "sole discretion" to impose an interim suspension for any student for the safety of themselves or others. During that suspension, the student is denied access to campus housing, classes, and all activities associated with RIT.
Citing privacy concerns, RIT could not say whether it has taken action with this student. Independent sources, however, confirmed to 13WHAM News Wednesday evening that Pouliot is no longer on campus.
Calls to Pouliot's attorney, Kristin Weberg, were not returned. She also did not respond to a voicemail specifically inquiring whether her client would return to school.
Some students are trying to differentiate between what it means to be accused of a crime, versus convicted of one.
"Anyone can be accused of anything," said RIT sophomore Ryan Moore. "But even if the evidence proves it, he's innocent until proven guilty."