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BRIDGETON - A former Lawrence Township teacher convicted of sexually assaulting students faces a new legal challenge from a man who says he too was abused 20 years ago.
William Shaw, now 31 and living in Stow Creek, states in a brief filed January 20 in Cumberland County Superior Court that he also was a victim of teacher Derek Hildreth, a longtime Lawrence Township School District teacher convicted in 2013 of sexually abusing students over several years.
Shaw claims Hildreth sexually abused him on two occasions in spring 1997 when Shaw was a sixth grader. He claims that he “did not realize he was injured until April 2016” when he began talking about it, according to the legal brief.
Based on that delay in recognizing damage from the alleged incidents, Shaw is asking the court to waive New Jersey’s normal deadlines for notifying a public entity of a possible lawsuit.
Shaw seeks to sue Hildreth, who is serving a lengthy state prison term, as well as the school district and any other individuals that may be identified in the future. Bridgeton attorney Kevin McCann filed the action on behalf of Shaw in January.
The filing also states that McCann and Shaw have met with New Jersey State Police to talk about his allegation. Shaw also identifies his brother as a victim of Hildreth.
A hearing is scheduled on the filing on Friday in Superior Court, with anticipation of a ruling.
In the filing, McCann states Shaw told him of what happened in the course of representing Shaw in an alleged sexual assault case in November 2016 in Somers Point, Atlantic County. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the case against Shaw on Feb. 7.
The legal brief refers to Shaw by his initials. However, his full name is used in an affidavit filed with the brief.
“In the course of my representation, W.S. told me he was sexually abused by Hildreth,” McCann states. “He stated that he began telling people about this in April 2016 because, for the first time as an adult, (Shaw) felt damaged by the sexual abuse.
“W.S. indicated that (he) did not inform anyone that he was sexually assaulted when it occurred because he was embarrassed, ashamed and fearful,” it continues. “He regrets that he did not come forward in 1997 as it may have prevented abuse to other victims, including his brother T.S.”
According to the filing, Shaw says that he has twice attempted suicide. His arrest in Somers Point last November followed his release from the Inspira Health Network crisis center, it states.
McCann states that in early December, after Shaw was released on bail from Atlantic County Jail, Shaw told him state police wanted to talk to him about Hildreth.
“I arranged to have a meeting in my office with the State Police and my client and, for the very first time on January 11, 2017, I became aware of the exact details of the incident involving W.S.,” McCann states. “Details of the incident involving W.S. are very close to the details surrounding the abuse of T.S. and the other 4 young adults that were assaulted by Derek Hildreth while he was their teacher at the Myron L. Powell Elementary School in Lawrence Township.
“During the investigation of the previous cases involved with Derek Hildreth it became blatantly obvious that the school system had done absolutely nothing to protect the students from the predator now known as Derek Hildredth,” the attorney adds. “The first time I became aware of the details of this abuse was on January 11, 2017, when W.S. gave a statement to Detective Abdill of the New Jersey State Police. The details of the events involving W.S. and Derek Hildreth (are) disgusting and it was understandable to me why W.S. has repressed this all of these years.”
State police and county detectives arrested Hildreth at Myron L. Powell Elementary School in May 2011. Then 48 years old, with 23 years at the district, he was charged with sexually assaulting five students.
Officials said the students ranged from 8 to 11 years old when the first incidents occurred.
Hildreth, a Clarksboro resident, was convicted on three counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced in May 2013 to serve up to 20 years in a New Jersey prison, with a 17-year period of parole ineligibility.
The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office in 2011 said the offenses against the five children occurred between 1998 and 2002 in Cumberland, Atlantic, Burlington, and Gloucester counties.
A state police spokesman declined to comment on the Shaw case.
“Due to the pending litigation that may cause this investigation to be re-examined, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to address these questions,” Capt. Brian Polite said.
Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae also declined to comment.
McCann did not return a call for comment.
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act requires that anyone intending to sue a public entity file a notice within 90 days of the date the alleged claim occurred. If that 90-day deadline is not followed, a judge may allow a filing as long as one year after the incident if it does not “substantially prejudice” the public entity.
In addition, under “extraordinary circumstances,” a judge still may allow a tort notice to be filed after those deadlines.
Joseph P. Smith; (856) 563-5252; firstname.lastname@example.org