Frank Spinelli: Assisting Arrest

Posted on March 29, 2011

By Julie Bolcer

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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  1. Maggie
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    The BSA’s statement (below) infuriates me for two reasons. (1) BSA is distancing themselves by saying right now they can’t confirm his involvement. (2) To BSA’s knowledge, Fox stepped down after the abuse was reported. Fox did not step down after the abuse was reported. He continued in his scouting leadership role after Spinelli reported the abuse.

    Those of us who grew up in that area of Staten Island heard of Fox’s inappropriate behavior, and we all witnessed his lengthy involvement with BSA. Clearly, one of us will need to contact BSA to “confirm” Fox’s involvement for them.

    Part of their statement from this article:

    “At this time, we are unable to confirm Mr. Fox’s involvement in the Boy Scouts of America, as we don’t have immediate access to files dated prior to the year 2000 when the BSA began keeping electronic membership records. However, Dr. Spinelli has indicated that he informed his parents of the molestation in 1980 and as a result, Scout leaders asked Mr. Fox to step down. To our knowledge, he did.”

  2. Posted March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Wow, this must be dredging up all kinds of feelings. I hope you are taking care of yourself, I hear Doctors often neglect themselves and need to be taken care of.

    His pathology really needs to be addressed as well, I am glad you pointed that out.

    The stigma of “mental health” and “mental illness” is still so strong in this culture that the very defense mechanisms we are aware of, denial, repression… the basics are simply allowed after acknowledgement.

    Thank you for going through all of this to put this man behind bars. What is done is done. Remember, the present is the only reality, the future is hope or fear and the past is memory.

    You made the right decision in the moment and did the right thing, and prevented many fears.

  3. Maggie
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    My irritation with the BSA statement prevented me from a proper Thank You to Dr. Spinelli. I’m so happy that you came forward, and that Fox is finally sitting in jail. I have high hopes that justice will be done. Thank you again for your courage.

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