NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – State prosecutors have filed a slew of court documents in their criminal case against accused child molester, Aaron Thomas, offering a window into the scope of their investigation and how they hope to prove the former high school basketball coach sexually assaulted underage student athletes.
The documents – filed earlier this month in R.I. Superior Court – included a list of interview transcripts with nearly 30 people who talked with investigators anonymously.
A witness list also shows R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office expects to rely on testimony from law enforcement authorities, educators, administrators, coaches and at least two doctors who would discuss body-fat and fitness-testing methods.
Thomas, who coached North Kingstown high school boys basketball for nearly 30 years, has been accused publicly of getting underage students to completely undress behind closed doors for the so-called naked fat tests over multiple decades.
The former coach has been charged with second-degree child molestation and second-degree sexual assault involving two people. He pleaded not guilty and has denied any criminal wrongdoing. His attorney denied to comment on the state’s latest filing on Thursday.
The newly filed court documents – which came in response to a request from Thomas’s attorneys for discovery and inspection – reveal what law enforcement focused on during their investigation, as well as how they might go about arguing Thomas broke the law.
For example, the witness list includes at least 26 people whose names are redacted – signaling potential victims or witnesses whose identities the attorney general’s office determined should be shielded from public inspection. This isn’t unusual when sexual assault – especially involving minors – is the focus of a case.
Prosecutors also said they are prepared to call to the witness stand multiple officers from the North Kingstown Police Department, which led an initial investigation into the allegations beginning when a former student filed a police report in 2018. The department closed the probe in 2021 without bringing any charges against Thomas, but officers subsequently reopened the case after Target 12’s reporting.
Stephen Dambruch, who heads the attorney general’s criminal division, is the lead prosecutor in the case. According to the court filing, the prosecutor said they also expect to call other witnesses, including FBI special agent Craig Graham, who could speak to a confidential tip about Thomas’s behavior made to the agency’s National Threat Operation Center in January 2021.
Also on the witness list is former North Kingstown Superintendent Philip Auger, who resigned in early 2022 amid mounting criticism that he and others didn’t do enough in the past when former students had raised concerns about Thomas’s so-called naked fat tests.
Other administrators and coaches included on the witness list are Kevin Gormley, who coached with Thomas, along with Keith Kenyon, who was North Kingstown athletic director during a long stretch of time when Thomas was allegedly conducting the fat tests. Last May, Kenyon resigned from his job at a Cape Cod middle school after he was named in a civil lawsuit that alleged he and others failed to protect students at North Kingstown.
Math teacher and former athletic director Howie Hague is also on the witness list, along with former principal and assistant superintendent Denise Mancieri. According to an internal investigation conducted for the school district by attorney Matthew Oliverio, Hague reported having walked into Thomas’s classroom in June 2017 and seeing the former coach alone with a boy who had “just his shorts on.”
Hague subsequently reported the incident to Mancieri, a high school classmate of Thomas’s, along with the then-athletic director, Dick Fossa, who has since died.
When Oliverio interviewed Mancieri about the incident in 2017, he wrote “she assumed that both Howie Hague and Dick Fossa had attended to the situation.” She also told Oliverio that she did not write anything down at the time and that “unless she writes things down, her memory gets a little vague.”
“She admits now that the optics certainly do not look good,” Oliverio wrote.
Mancieri resigned as assistant superintendent shortly after Auger.
In addition to the witness list, prosecutors listed a host of physical evidence, including recorded interviews, internal investigations by the school and town and 520 pages of body composition test information consent forms.
Thomas’s attorney has argued in the past the consent forms help his client show that parents were on board with his testing methods. Many parents have since said they had no idea that their children would be alone and naked with the coach when they signed the forms.
Other physical evidence includes a R.I. State Police request for a forensic examination made by the agency’s computer crimes unit in April 2022, along with multiple search warrant consent forms tied to the case.
The criminal case is happening concurrently to a civil rights probe by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has been looking into whether the school failed to protect its students. A separate civil lawsuit has been filed by a group of former students and their families represented by private attorney Tim Conlon.
A pretrial hearing in Thomas’ case is scheduled for March 10. A trial date has not yet been set.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tim White (email@example.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.