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Opinion & Essays - Dec, 1995 Issue 


(It is the policy of Woodbury Reports to make its pages available for serious discussion and opinions on any subject of interest to professionals and parents regarding emotional growth schools and programs). 

 (On September 11, 1995, Rocky Top Academy, located near Anaconda, Montana was closed down by local authorities, and founder/director Tom "Gregory" Finucane was arrested. On October 25, 1995, Tom was formally charged "...with the crimes of ASSAULT (felony), DEVIATE SEXUAL CONDUCT (two counts), CRIMINAL ENDANGERMENT, BURGLARY, THEFT (two counts), and DECEPTIVE PRACTICES...." Tom "Gregory" Finucane has denied all charges and reports that he has turned down a plea bargain offer. The County Attorney is Edward G. Beaudette, 406-563-8421 Ext. 235. The defense attorney is Chuck Watson, 406-586-4707. Tom "Gregory" Finucane's current phone number is 208-683-3413.) 

November 28, 1995 via Facsimile 

Dear Mr. Woodbury 

I enjoyed speaking with you this evening [concerning] Tom Gregory's cause in regard to the spurious and unjust charges which have been lodged against him by the authorities in Anaconda, Montana. 

As I indicated to you during our conversation, my son Eric was one of Tom Gregory's students at the Rocky Top Academy. We enrolled in the school in November, 1994, after several previous failed placements. Eric suffers from a fairly severe case of Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder, and as a result, requires a highly structured environment in which he can receive close personal attention in a low student-to- faculty/staff ratio program. Rocky Top Academy provided just this type of program. 

During the nearly one year that Eric attended Rocky Top , he received exceptionally good care, structure, guidance and, when necessary, appropriate discipline from a concerned and caring staff led by Tom Gregory. In addition to the aspects of the program which were directed towards dealing with Eric's behavior problems (which, in our minds, were his greatest needs), Eric also received schooling in all of the basic subjects. We were informed as to the qualifications of the individuals who were handling the teaching duties and Eric's progress in the academic area was reported to us on a regular basis. Aside from the academic program, Rocky Top's recreational program was without peer, and included weekly skiing trips during the season, ice-skating, fishing, and other sports and recreational activities (movies, bowling outings, etc.) 

Eric visited home at fairly regular intervals and I can report that he was always healthy, well-fed, well-groomed and happy. He enjoyed the program at Rocky Top and looked forward to returning after his trips home so that he could see his pet dog (Tom allowed Eric to have and care for a pet) or go skiing or fishing with "the guys" the next weekend, etc. 

While at home, Eric did seem to be making progress in curtailing his behavior problems and interacting more appropriately with his sisters. 

I can tell you without any qualification or hesitation whatsoever, that I do not believe for one moment the allegations which have been lodged against Tom. My wife shares my opinion in this regard as well. It is my understanding from my conversations with the local police and others, that the child abuse charges were initially generated by a disgruntled former employee, and then vastly expanded upon by a student with serious emotional problems who was looking for a way to persuade his parents to allow him to leave. I have subsequently been informed that the particular student's mother has since contacted the authorities herself to advise them that even she does not believe the charges. Indeed, the prosecutor's own lack of confidence in his case is evidenced by the fact that he has recently had to resort to the addition of the trumped up felony charge that Tom committed the crime of burglary by entering onto the very school premises that he himself had leased and in which he had been operating his program, i.e., before the authorities shut him down unceremoniously and shipped the students home on barely 24 hours notice to their parents. 

The real source of the problem might well be the desire of the local authorities to rid themselves and their community of a facility such as Rocky Top, which housed kids who, at times, might not have been the most desirable neighbors, so that the school's facility might then become available for other uses. 

I am certain that the authorities will not be able to produce credible witnesses who will be able to back up these charges and that their case would collapse in the face of a competent defense. However, without financial (as well as moral) support, I fear that Tom will not have the means to mount the type of defense that is required when battling against the full force and resources of a determined state's attorney/prosecutor who has created an extremely high-profile case. I sincerely wish that I were able to assist Tom in a financial way. Unfortunately, however, the costs of unanticipated airfares back from Montana to Florida, when Rocky Top was closed, and then from Florida back to Idaho, where Eric is currently attending school, coupled with the expense of enrolling my older child in college this coming fall, render it impossible for me to provide Tom with any significant monetary aid. I truly hope that your efforts may lead to the establishment of a defense fund which will enable Tom to fight these false charges and then, when successful (as I know he will be) try to put his life back together - and perhaps be able to reopen the school. My wife and I would have no qualms about re- enrolling Eric in that school. Needless to say, I would be happy to provide you with any additional information concerning my views on this subject. 


David J. Wiener Attorney At Law Levy, Kneen, Mariani, Curtin, Wiener, Kornfeld, & Del Russo Professional Association Counselors at Law West Palm Beach, Florida 407-793-3768 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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