Suspect Charged in Lamont Library Sexual Assault
Peter E. Benson, a former affiliate of the Harvard Dental School, has been summoned to appear in Middlesex District Court on April 19 to face charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault in Lamont Library.
The victim, whose husband is a student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, says she woke up from a nap in Lamont around 3 p.m. on Feb. 23 when she felt something moving beneath her buttocks.
Subsequently, she identified the assailant to the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), which sent him a summons to appear in court.
However, they did not arrest him, and between the time when the summons was issued and his April 2 court date, he allegedly assaulted a minor at a Somerville movie theater, and was arrested by the Somerville Police.
An e-mail advisory prepared by the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) and sent to the Harvard community shortly after the original incident said the victim turned and saw her assailant, who immediately grabbed his belongings and fled the library.
However, the victim tells a different story.
She says that when she woke up, she saw her assailant and told him to come with her to the security desk.
She said that the suspect agreed and the two then walked from the reading room on the third floor of the library toward the security desk entrance.
"Once he arrived at the lobby he didn't stop and went past the desk so I grabbed him," she continued.
While holding on to the arm of her assailant, the victim says she called to the security guard and librarian on staff, saying that she needed help and to call the police.
"They just didn't do anything," the victim said.
She continued, saying that after struggling with the alleged assailant directly in front of the security guard Benson shook her off and ran away.
"The librarian just looked surprised and didn't do anything. Afterwards I was yelling at the librarians, saying 'How could you let him go?'" the victim said.
The victim continued, saying that following her complaints they did call the police.
"It just seems that security is a real problem at the library," she said.
Beth Brainard, spokesperson for the library, said that one of the reasons why no action was taken to apprehend the suspect was that the employees who work at the main entrance are not really security guards.
"We call them door-checkers," Brainard said. "We don't train staff in apprehension of suspects. We don't permit them to exert force against any library patron because they are not trained in those techniques and it could create a greater risk."
Brainard added that "in an emergency the first thing they are instructed to do is call HUPD and the second thing is to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible."
Brainard said that security in the libraries was a concern and that recently they have asked HUPD to increase their presence in the library.
"We have uniformed HUPD personnel making the rounds in the library and making their presence known," she said.
As for the discrepancies between the victim's story and the community advisory, HUPD spokesperson Steven Catalano said that the struggle was just not relevant to the safety of the community at large.
"The goal of the advisory is to give as much info to the community while trying to focus in on the description of the perpetrator and the events," said Catalano. "In this case [the struggle and lack of response] were not relevant to the initial incident...if we felt that was relevant then that would have been in the advisory."
Benson, 47, was an employee of the Dental School and was fired as a result of the incident, according to the victim.
He was also arraigned in Somerville District Court April 2 on two counts of indecent assault and battery following an incident that occurred last weekend.
On March 31, Somerville Police Department (SPD) officer William Donovan was dispatched to the Somerville Theater on a report of an assault.
"The victim met him in the lobby and she stated that she had been assaulted and gave a description of the suspect," said Ryan Dunne, a crime analyst for SPD.
While the victim, a minor, was describing her assailant, a second woman approached the officer and told him she had been assaulted a few weeks earlier by a man matching the description.
The victim then spotted Benson inside the theater, and said he was the man who had assaulted her.
When the officer approached
Benson, he ran. The officer then gave chase and caught Benson behind the Davis Square MBTA station.
"When the officer asked why he was running, Benson refused to answer," Dunne said. "He was then identified by the victims and arrested."
Benson's trial for allegedly assaulting the two women is scheduled to begin on May 21.
Benson was unavailable for comment.
-Staff writer Joseph P. Flood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.