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RI attorney requests ‘fat test’ documents from former coach

Target 12

Aaron Thomas

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A private attorney has issued a court-authorized request seeking documents from former North Kingstown High School boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas amid an ongoing scandal over his interactions with teenage student-athletes, Target 12 has learned.

Timothy Conlon, who represents former athletes who have accused Thomas of inappropriately getting them to strip naked for so-called “fat tests,” confirmed he sent the longtime coach what is called a “writ of replevin.”

The writ — which is like a non-criminal version of a subpoena — is used by attorneys to retrieve items or information that they argue belongs to their clients but is wrongfully in the possession of someone else.

John MacDonald, who represents Thomas, confirmed his client received the writ. He said the court document seeks information including a consent form from one of Conlon’s clients, who’s described as “John Doe.”

The writ was sent in the wake of MacDonald publicly releasing a copy of a consent form last week. MacDonald said at the time Thomas was in possession of 300 signed consent forms spanning more than 10 years, which he argued show the coach received individual consent before any of the controversial body-fat testing started.

Now, however, MacDonald said Thomas doesn’t have the forms. “The original consent forms are back with the School Department because they are School Department items,” he told Target 12.

Conlon said he’s now trying to understand who has been been in possession of the consent forms.

“We’re in the process of appropriately documenting what we now understand is represented to be the travel of this, which is somehow the documents being removed from the school, then returned to the school,” he said, adding that he will report what he learns to the court.

Target 12 has interviewed nearly two dozen former student athletes, parents and town officials who all said Thomas inappropriately asked underage players to get completely undressed alone with him behind closed doors in his office and a locker-room closet dating back to the mid-1990s.

Once naked, the students said Thomas told them to stretch, duck-walk and sit cross-legged as part of a routine that also involved Thomas using a caliper to measure their upper inner thighs. The coach would kneel in front of the naked teenagers while taking the measurements, according to several students, who said his face was near their genitalia.

Thomas has not been charged with any criminal offenses, but Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office is now investigating the allegations. MacDonald has defended the coach’s actions, saying he never broke the law.

The North Kingstown School Department has not responded to multiple questions about the consent forms, but the version provided by MacDonald doesn’t suggest students need to be naked for the tests.

“After I grew up, I started asking some real questions about what happened,” one former player told Target 12 as part of a months-long investigation. “Did I need to be naked?” 

North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger — who has confirmed he was notified about the fat testing in 2018 — spoke publicly about the issue for the first time Wednesday.

He largely defended the district’s response to the allegations and remained steadfast in his claim that the former student athlete who told him about fat tests in 2018 never said he was naked.

“He told me he was either in a towel or gym shorts for the test,” Auger said in prepared remarks during a North Kingstown School Committee meeting. “The individual said he was not naked for the test, but he found the test unusual.”

The claim contradicts multiple former students and Conlon, who previously told Target 12 the student informed Auger he was naked for the tests, as were others. Auger said he later asked Thomas in 2018 whether students were naked for the tests. The superintendent has not responded to follow-up questions about why he would ask about nudity if he was never told about it.

“When I asked him, he stated unequivocally that no one had ever been naked in front of him for one of these sessions,” Auger said about his discussion with Thomas in 2018.

Former students who were fat tested are now being encouraged to come forward to discuss their experiences with the School Department as well as law enforcement and Day One, a nonprofit that deals with issues related to sexual assault.

Neronha told 12 News earlier this month that his team that handles cases of sexual assault against children is examining the allegations, which could ultimately lead to a grand jury investigation.

Conlon’s decision to send the writ to Thomas also raises the specter that civil proceedings could be on the horizon, as the court-authorized action is completely separate from the criminal probe.

So far no lawsuits have been filed against Thomas, and MacDonald said his client has not been interviewed by the attorney general’s office.

A hearing on the writ is scheduled for Dec. 3 at Washington County Superior Court.

“We’ll report back to the court that we have none of these items,” MacDonald said.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Amanda Pitts contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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