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Defamation suit filed against cop by ex-Staples coach dismissed

Published 6:38 am, Thursday, April 18, 2013
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A judge has thrown out a lawsuit by a former wrestling coach at Staples High School who claimed he was fired after a Westport police officer threatened to expose him for being gay.

Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe ruled Wednesday there is no evidence the police officer, Edward Batlin, told anyone of Paul Arcudi's sexual orientation, but he said school officials properly fired Arcudi after it was disclosed he had a previous out-of-state arrest for sexually exploiting a child.

The Bridgeport judge said Batlin's conduct had been "proper and appropriate."

"Although no crime had been committed in Connecticut, he completed a criminal background investigation following a complaint. The results, which revealed a criminal conviction for a crime involving sexual overtones with a minor, was naturally concerning and troubling," the judge stated. "The plaintiff was, after all, a volunteer wrestling coach at the local high school."

The judge ten dismissed the defamation lawsuit Arcudi filed Batlin.

Arcudi, the son of former First Selectman Joseph Arcudi, had been a volunteer wrestling coach at Staples in 2010.

In January 2010, the Westport police received complaints from parents of wrestling team members about Arcudi and assigned Batlin to conduct a criminal records check on him, according to court records. That check revealed that Arcudi had been convicted in 1996 of sexual exploitation of a child in Illinois.

Batlin confronted Arcudi with the information in an effort to get him to resign as coach, according to court records. In his lawsuit, Arcudi claimed Batlin threatened to humiliate him by making false statements about him in public if he did not resign and threatened to expose him "for being gay." He also contended that he suffered emotional distress from Batlin's negligent actions.

In March 2010, Arcudi was fired and ordered by school officials not to enter Westport school buildings.

"Nothing in the defendant's conduct created an unreasonable risk of causing emotional distress, and nothing in the defendant's conduct was unreasonable," the judge added.

Arcudi's firing was the first of three incidents involving sexual allegations that triggered the dismissal of a Staples coach in recent years.

In November 2011, freshman football coach Mike Pickering was charged with providing players access to pornographic websites.

Last December, Jeffrey Schare, the coach of the high school boys swim and dive teams, was charged with sexually assaulting two Fairfield girls.