NORTH ANDOVER – Valley Patriot sources at Lawrence District Court and in law enforcement tell The Valley Patriot that North Andover volleyball player Erin Cox was in court last month with a signed confession, admitting she was in possession of alcohol and consuming alcohol at an underage drinking party.
Cox claimed initially that she was only at the drinking party to give a drunk friend a ride home when police arrived. Her attorney at the time, Wendy Murphy, went on a nationwide media blitz promoting the false narrative that Cox was the victim of a school system out of control and that North Andover’s “zero tolerance policy” resulted in her suspension from the volleyball team and the loss of her position as captain.
Attorney Murphy and Cox’s Mom Eleanor Cox told the media that Erin was being punished for “doing the right thing”. That narrative was repeated without question by television, newspapers and radio stations across the globe prompting people to donate money to an Erin Cox scholarship fund from as far away as Australia.
Cox, who is 17 years old, now admits to being at the underage drinking party on September 28, 2013. Cox says in her confession that she was there approximately an hour before Boxford police broke it up, a direct contradiction to her earlier claims.
“My name is Erin Cox,” her hand written letter to the court states.
“I am 17 years old. On September 28, 2013. I was at the party in Boxford, MA. I was there for about an hour before police arrived. While I was there I was in possession of alcohol and consumed alcohol, even though I was underage. There were numerous underage people there as well. I am admitting to this offense and wish to enter into a diversion program.”
The officer who charged Cox with possession of alcohol was Boxford Police Officer Brian Neeley, the same officer who wrote the email to the North Andover Schools on her behalf.
According to witnesses at the court, Erin was represented by an attorney, but Wendy Murphy was not present.
Attorney Murphy had told the Valley Patriot in October that, “Erin was not charged” and insisted she was not scheduled to appear for any reason related to the underage drinking party in Boxford. She Demanded that the Valley Patriot retract our story on-line saying it was “lies” and insisted that we publish that our sources “lied”.
Murphy has not commented on the matter since Erin Cox confessed to the court that she was indeed drinking at the party. Not ONE member of the national news media has informed their readers or viewers that the story they told (for four straight days) about Cox being punished for “doing the right thing,” was false.
Without even making a phone call to verify what they were reporting, the national news media ran with Cox and Murphy’s fabricated version of events, some adding their own facts to the story claiming she “drove” a friend home from a drinking party, some called her “designated driver” none of which turned out to be true.
North Andover School Superintendent Hutchinson says that North Andover doesn’t have a “zero tolerance” policy.
“We do not have a ‘zero tolerance policy.’ Each incident is fully investigated and decided upon based on the individual facts and circumstances. Our administrators are tasked with applying the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules pertaining to student-athletes and alcohol in a consistent and fair manner,” Hutchinson wrote. “To be clear, the MIAA’s, and by extension North Andover High School’s, ‘chemical health rule’ prohibits student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption, or distribution.”
According to documents obtained by The Valley Patriot, Eleanor Cox, (Erin’s mom), was in Lawrence District Court and Lawrence Superior Court on October 11, 2013 seeking a restraining order against North Andover High officials.
In her TRO complaint, Mrs. Cox first asked Lawrence District Court Judge Gaffney to reverse the school’s decision suspending Erin Cox from the volleyball team for five games, and return her team leadership position as captain of the team, saying her daughter was the victim of discrimination “based on sex” and that her suspension was a “civil rights” violation. The complaint also details that the Cox family was seeking money for legal fees, attorney’s fees, interests and “issue any other relief deemed appropriate and just.”
In her complaint, Mrs. Cox details the “severe emotional distress” her daughter was going through. Erin “is now experiencing serious emotional distress. She feels not only embarrassed and falsely accused of an offense she did not commit, she is distraught because she feels betrayed by officials and because she was punished for an offense she didn’t commit.”
She admits in those court documents that her daughter was at the party for nearly 30 minutes before police arrived. The media never reported this.
“The party was noisy and crowded and when the Plaintiff (Erin Cox) finally found her friend, she had difficulty convincing her to leave. Within 30 minutes police arrived.”
The decision of Judge Gaffney was that Mrs. Cox had filed in the wrong court and refused to take any actions on her request.
Mrs. Cox then filed the same complaint in Lawrence Superior Court where Judge Cornetta decided to take no action and refused to grant her request because there was no attorney present to represent Erin Cox, the actual defendant.
Although the Cox family had already retained famed Attorney Wendy Murphy, she didn’t appear in court that day.
COX FAMILY FIRST CLAIMED SEX DISCRIMINATION, TITLE IX
NOT ONE WORD OF HER “NOT BEING CHARGED”
The complaint filed by Mrs. Cox accused North Andover school officials of violating her “civil rights” because she is a female, and accused school officials of giving preferential treatment to male athletes.
“Because the punishment imposed on [Erin] appears disparate “based on sex” the North Andover School District is subject to equitable and other relief under Title IX and analogous state civil rights laws that prohibit unequal treatment of students in educational program “based on sex”.
“In addition to poor judgment, North Andover’s decision to punish the Plaintiff (Erin) violates her equal protection rights and rights under Title IX of the Education Acts, and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act because serious offenses committed by male athletes have not resulted in similar actions.”
FINALLY, AN ANSWER TO THE COACH RAFFERTY MYSTERY
Eleanor Cox cited as an example in her complaint, a case in 2012 where a North Andover football player was “arrested” at an underage drinking party and was only excluded from playing the Thanksgiving football game as well as two basketball games when that season started up.
NAHS Football Coach John Rafferty was fired over that incident, when High School Principal Scuzzarella announced he would not be returning as coach the following year. Rafferty, a well-loved 12 year veteran coach was fired according to sources at the North Andover Patch “because he didn’t follow protocol when he disciplined two students this past fall.”
One of those students was the high school quarterback who was supposed to play in the Thanksgiving Day game.
Rafferty was eventually rehired after intense public outrage from parents, residents, students and former students. A “Support Coach Rafferty” Facebook page drew more than 500 supporters in one day.
Though officials kept silent at the time and never revealed the exact reason the coach was terminated, Eleanor Cox’s court filing may hold the answer to that long sought question.
As an example of sex discrimination at North Andover High, Eleanor Cox states:
“For Example, a police log entry dated November 20, 2012 states that a male student was arrested at age 17 for underage possession of alcohol at the intersection of Boxford Street and Candlestick Road at 9:55pm on Friday, November 16, 2012. That student was suspended from playing the team’s last football game, which was Thanksgiving Day and the penalty was carried over for only two games when he began his basketball season thereafter.”
In opposition to Mrs. Cox’ complaint, North Andover School District’s Attorney, Goeffrey Bok, of Stoneman Chandler and Milller, addressed the quarterback issue in a footnote on page 10.
“5/ Plaintiff’s [Erin Cox] claims of an equal protection violation are similarly without merit. The male student referred to in Complaint ¶ 22 was punished, just like the Plaintiff [Cox] for 25% of the scheduled games in a season (as computed under the formula provided by MIAA rule 62). He served half of this penalty by being prohibited from playing in the final football game of the season, and the rest of the penalty by being prohibited from paying (SIC) in the first two basketball games when that season began. Since football has many fewer games than volleyball or basketball, half of the 25% penalty was served with fewer games in football than the other two sports. Of course, for a North Andover High School football player to miss the school’s traditional Thanksgiving Day game is a major penalty.”
Attorney Murphy stated several times that School Attorney Geoffrey Bok “lied” when he referred to Erin Cox in his opposition as having been “arrested”. His opposition motion does make several references to her “arrest” which police officials say is not correct. No evidence can be found that Attorney Bok “lied” as a summons or notice to appear is exactly the same in the eyes of the court as she was being compelled to appear in court.
REJECTED BY THE COURT
Judge Cornetta’s decision states: “No action is taken in this matter at this time. Filing does not comply with MGL Ch. 221. S. 46A, purported plaintiff shall be afforded until the close of business on 11/8/13 to have an appearance in this matter entered by a Massachusetts licensed attorney. Failing the same, the matter shall be dismissed without prejudice.”
Erin Cox has since already served her suspension. To date, the Cox family has not filed any lawsuit against the Town of North Andover or the North Andover School District.
Mrs. Cox asked both courts to “issue a temporary restraining order, immediately reinstating the Plaintiff’s [Erin Cox’s] captaincy and vacating the sanctions against her so that she can play with her team on October 11, 2013.” (the date the TRO was sought).
Mrs. Cox’s complaint requested an order preventing the school from “further sanctioning the plaintiff (Erin Cox) in any manner or retaliating against her, related to the facts at issue.”
In a hand written statement of damages, Mrs. Cox wrote: “My daughter, Erin Cox has not been physically injured, she has been severely humiliated and so very much wants her dignity back. I would greatly appreciate the reimbursement of our legal fees – at the present time. We are a very modest family and I will sell a $3,500 ring to help pay for Erin’s legal support.”
Mrs. Cox also cited in her complaint, an email sent to North Andover School Officials from one of the police officers who broke up the underage drinking party on September 29, 2013. She presented the email as her only physical evidence to back her daughter’s reason for being present at the party.
WHAT DID OFFICER NEELEY’S EMAIL REALLY SAY?
“The officer has provided a statement to North Andover school officials describing his observations, and noting that the Plaintiff (Erin), was present at the party in Boxford only to retrieve a friend who had called the plaintiff for a ride home.”
Officer Neeley’s email to Assistant Superintendent Gilligan was not sent from a Police Department email account, but rather, a personal “Hotmail” account. It was sent the day before Mrs. Cox filed for the restraining order, and was cc’d to Attorney Wendy Murphy.
In his email, Officer Neeley states to school officials what he observed about Erin Cox’s demeanor and that Erin expressed remorse. He did not state in his email any personal knowledge of what had happened before he arrived, or that had he had any evidence corroborating Cox’s claim that she was only there to pick up a friend.
Officer Neeley’s own report shows that he was not present when Erin arrived at the party, and could not have witnessed one way or the other, why Cox was present at the drinking party or what time she actually arrived.
His email reads, in part: “Erin did not have the slightest odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person. She was polite, articulate, steady on the feet and very remorseful for her decision to go into the residence, but was only helping out a friend who had called for a ride.”
ERIN DID NOT COME FORWARD, PLAYED VOLLEYBALL AFTER PARTY
According to court documents filed by North Andover school officials, Erin Cox returned to school on Monday after the underage drinking party (the party took place Saturday night) but never notified school officials that she had been caught by police at the party the previous weekend. She attended classes that day without saying a word and then Monday evening, played as team captain for the Scarlet Knights volleyball team.
None of the other 41 students at the party informed officials until Tuesday, after Erin had already played one game after the party.
The other student who turned themself in was also involved in extra-curricular activity, and received the same level of punishment as Erin Cox.
Officials say that Cox was not punished for refusing to come forward as required of all students participating in high school athletics and extra-curricular activities.
MIAA rules also state that any student found to have been present at such parties where underage drinking is taking place will “lose eligibility for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 40% of all interscholastic contests in that sport.”
Students can reduce the penalty to 25% of the remaining games in the season by taking a chemical dependency or treatment program. Documents show that Erin agreed to take the chemical dependency program, and thus was only suspended from the volleyball team for five games by Principal Scuzarella and stripped of her position as captain.
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Chaos in Cox Case as Stories Conflict – North Andover Patch – October 22, 2013
School lawyer lied about ‘arrest’ of girl suspended for trying to help drunken pal, attorney says – Fox News October 16, 2013
Erin Cox, suspended Massachusetts prep volleyball player, accused of lying – YAHOO – October 22, 2103
Student athlete shines in first game back after suspension for allegedly aiding drunken friend – Fox News October 19, 2013
Erin Cox, Mass. high school student, punished for aiding drunken friend – CBS – October 15, 2013