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Investigation into Aaron Thomas continues as officials seek former coach’s computer, files

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Protesters critical of North Kingstown School Superintendent Phil Auger, and the school district’s handling of alleged misconduct by Aaron Thomas, attend the school committee meeting held Tuesday evening at NK High School.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Government officials and other sources said this week that a special writ of replevin  had been filed for the computer and possibly other documents of the high school coach whom some former athletes accuse of inappropriate behavior by him asking if they wanted to be naked for “fat tests.”

The writ, sources said, was ordered by Timothy Conlan, attorney for some of the athletes to search computers in Thomas’s possession for photographs of the athletes and any emails between him and them.

Conlan told The Independent Wednesday morning, “I cannot confirm or deny that such a writ was issued. As more information becomes available, I will disclose it.”

Some sources have said that an initial service of the writ on Thomas was attempted Wednesday morning, but the computers may have been moved to a different location. Conlan would neither confirm or deny that circumstance had developed.

John MacDonald, a lawyer representing Thomas, reached for comment early Wednesday said that he was not aware of any service of the writ on Thomas at that point.

In other developments, Conlan has called into question school authorities claim they did not know in 2018 about the naked tests.

In an email to The Independent, he wrote, “At least two alumni spoke with North Kingstown officials on a total of 4 occasions in 2018, and advised that they were naked when examined, alone with a school department coach, on school department property.”

School officials have claimed in their own statement over a week ago said that they had no information in 2018 about nudity in the tests. They also said that they first learned only in 2021 that “fat tests” were occurring on some teen athletes who were alone and nude with Thomas.

However, MacDonald acknowledged that Thomas did the “fat tests” on some naked students.   

Although he didn’t reference a time frame for those tests that also included athletes who were partially or fully clothed, he said they were part of a “free body composition testing.”

The lawyer said students voluntarily participated in the program and that over his years in the school system Thomas volunteered “thousands of hours” so athletes could benefit from that program.

“Aaron Thomas adamantly denies any unlawful conduct. He fully cooperated with the North Kingstown Police investigation,” MacDonald said about the police review that found no evidence on which to charge Thomas with any crime.

The office of the state Attorney General has reopened a review of the case and has included the North Kingstown Police in its efforts. No conclusions have been reported yet.

MacDonald also said that parental consent forms were required and received for his free body composition testing program. School officials have not directly addressed the extent of their knowledge of parental consent forms or explanations on them for the permission given for the testing of these athletes.

According to MacDonald, the “form did not detail how the testing was taking place, but instead described the purpose of the testing. It was no secret at the high school that some athletes tested in clothing while others did not. It was the athlete’s choice.”

He also described to The Independent the clothing options for the kind of test that is being questioned now.

“The lower body measurements took place at the end of testing and athletes were given the option of being fully clothed, partially clothed or unclothed for this portion of the test.  As a practical matter, it was quicker and more efficient to take the measurements without clothing interfering,” he said.

Town Council President Greg Mancini says he wants the council to set up an independent review of the school committee’s investigation into any inappropriate behavior.

The school committee hired an attorney to conduct its own investigation.

Those findings have not been released. Mancini said those matters and others will be examined as part of the town council’s intervention to double-check the school committee crisis and handling of the matter.

The town council is attempting, said various government officials in interviews with The Independent, to deal with a political and community tailspin as more than 300 people express outrage through social media at Thomas’s actions.

The officials also have said that sentiment is growing in the community that school officials failed to act aggressively enough to investigate before Thomas when allegations arose three years ago.

In this first public statement representing the views of Thomas – who has been unavailable for comment – his lawyer MacDonald detailed a number of clarifications from Thomas.

He said that Thomas worked with hundreds of student athletes through the years and volunteered “thousands of hours so athletes could benefit from free body composition testing” in that voluntary program.

“Athletes were tested every three months. Approximately 45 measurements were meticulously inputted into a three-page excel spreadsheet and given to the athlete,” he said.

He said that athletes compared their progress with each other and this further spurred improvement.

“The body composition testing wasn’t just about ‘fat tests.’ Athletic performance improvements were tracked as well - jumping, bench press, etc.,” he said.

MacDonald noted, referring to tests on the body area that is the focus of former students’ complaints, the adductor muscles of the inner thigh were measured to track lateral movement improvement.

This test has garnered the most attention since measurements were taken from the inner thigh area. Of the 45 measurements, approximately 10 took place in lower body, he said.

Testing took about 15 minutes per athlete who was either fully clothed, partially clothed or unclothed with Thomas.

How many of these athletes went through this test is unclear as is the exact number of complaining students to Conlan who represents those alleging the inappropriate behavior.

The students have said, according to various reports, that Thomas made them feel uncomfortable and one alleged that the test included inappropriate touching, according to various media reports.

Another student, according to The Boston Globe, said that Thomas gave him a “hernia check,” which involves looking for bulge in the groin area, with his bare hands.

Thomas “denies any hernia checks,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald also pointed out that “scores of former students have reached out to Aaron Thomas to show their support.” However, he did not provide the names or statements from those students.

He later revised that number to “about 15-20 that have communicated with each other their support for Coach Thomas. I’m advised that they are putting together a statement of support of him and signing it. I suspect many of the former students will be anonymous due to the publicity, but the support is real.”

Conlan has maintained many students have contacted him representing them, but declined to give an exact number.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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