This April 11, 2016 photo shows a portion of the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy campus in Exeter, N.H. Credit: Jim Cole | AP

EXETER, New Hampshire — An attorney representing Phillips Exeter Academy’s former reverend has requested the state attorney general’s office take over the investigation into the preparatory school pinged as “one of the most influential, powerful and resource-laden institutions in New Hampshire.”

On Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Geoff Ward said there is an “active review” of the academy, but he could not comment on specifics. “This office is still compiling information to see what action, if any, we should take,” Ward said. “That review is still ongoing.”

Ward said if a criminal investigation is decided upon, the attorney general’s office would likely make an announcement.

In a letter dated Nov. 19 addressed to Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, Afghanistan-based lawyer Ward Scott wrote, “It is very disturbing that, to date, investigation of the school’s leadership has been relegated to the Rockingham County attorney, given the gross disparity in power and pocket-book of these two institutions.” Ward, former Grafton County attorney and member of the criminal division of the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, is representing the Rev. Robert Thompson, the academy’s minister for 31 years until he was placed on leave in 2016.

MacDonald has been asked to recuse himself from any investigation, as he was formerly a partner with the academy’s current legal counsel Nixon Peabody LLP.

Last week, in response to a Right-to-Know request from Seacoast Media Group, County Attorney Patricia Conway released more than 900 pages of the state’s investigation into Phillips Exeter, detailing misconduct claims stemming back to the 1950s. The documents, containing sensitive material, are not fully redacted and include names of alleged perpetrators, some victims and complainants.

Scott’s request to MacDonald asks him to appoint special counsel to “assume all investigative duties from the Rockingham County attorney and proceed with a detailed de novo investigation of all sexual misconduct at Phillips Exeter, faculty/staff on student, and student on student, to include how and why Phillips Exeter proceeded with wanton disregard for the well-being of children entrusted to its care over decades.”

“No institution, however powerful, should be beyond reach of the law,” he continued.

Scott also argued he has reason to believe the academy’s administration has been “mining Rev. Thompson’s school email archive, and digital and physical files of all sorts pertaining to confidential pastoral communications, in complete disregard for religious liberty and privacy.” Thompson was placed on leave during the summer of 2016 after he allegedly mediated a meeting where an alleged student perpetrator, Chukwudi Ikpeazu, agreed to bake his campus-famous monkey bread for the female victim as an act of penance. Ikpeazu was eventually charged with sexual assault, but the county attorney’s office dropped the charge with conditions in June. The alleged assault had already been reported to two deans and adjudicated by the academy before Thompson met with the students.

Thompson remains on leave from the academy and is under a gag order.

Scott’s letter to MacDonald also said Thompson was placed on administrative leave “under circumstances we believe are intended to scapegoat him for, and distract from decades of institutional failure to ferret out and discipline faculty sexual predators.”

In July, MacDonald announced his office, along with the Merrimack County attorney’s office, Concord police and state police, would conduct an investigation into Saint Paul’s, a prep school also ridden with claims of misconduct.

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