Posted on Advocate.com March 29, 2011
Frank Spinelli at 11
When startling news unfolded last week that William Fox, a decorated former New York City police officer, had been arrested in connection with the sexual abuse of three teenage boys under his care in Pennsylvania, Frank Spinelli felt mixed emotions. The doctor had assisted authorities in the investigation sparked by his own childhood abuse, which he says occurred at Fox’s hands, but more boys had been hurt in the intervening years.
“Right now I feel a little regret that it had to go on so long and that children had to suffer after me when it could have stopped,” said the Manhattan internist for HIV-positive and gay men, who then reverted to the clinical terminology of his practice. “This is a sickness. We need to get help for him and protect children and he needs to be stopped from doing this further.”
In an interview, Spinelli, 43, said that between 1978 and 1980, Fox molested him and other boys repeatedly by taking advantage of his role as a Boy Scout troop leader on Staten Island. He reported the abuse to his parents, who tried to take action, but little came of their complaints in the community of Italian and Irish immigrants where life revolved around the Catholic Church.
“He was the scoutmaster,” said Spinelli. “He was in charge. He asked me about masturbation and pubic hair and ‘fucking’ when I was 11 and he gave me a ride to camp. He led me to believe this was a right of passage for all boys.”
Spinelli, an Advocate health contributor, then put the experience out of mind until 2008, when a book tour and conversations with old friends aroused his curiosity. He found newspaper accounts of the police officer’s accomplishments in talking a suicidal teenage boy down from a ledge and later adopt him, a story Fox retold in the book The Cop and The Kid.The officer was named a National Father of the Year in 1982 for his efforts.
Sickened, Spinelli called Fox, by then retired and living in Pennsylvania, and heard that he had adopted 15 boys, some with disabilities, in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania over the past 30 years. Spinelli said he learned that the abuse continued and that Fox remained at least tangentially involved with the Boy Scouts.
“I was shocked that what had happened to me is still happening today,” said Spinelli. “I thought, This man in one book has rewritten his history. I cannot let him do this. It will rewrite what he did to me and I know what he did to other boys.”
Spinelli contacted the New York City police and a two-year investigation ensued with the Pennsylvania state police department, which had already received complaints about Fox and decided to reopen the case based on the new information. The details included two phone conversations that Spinelli agreed to wiretap.
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