Community center head charged with child assault

June 25, 2010
By

John Ruch

HEATH ST.—The program supervisor at the Hennigan Community Center was arrested on June 13 for allegedly setting up a school playground fight between his daughter and another girl, then grabbing the girl himself and throwing and hitting her, according to the Boston Police Department (BPD). A witness reportedly captured the alleged fight on a cell phone video.

Robert L. Platt, 49, who lives on Minden Street near the Hennigan school and community center at 200 Heath St., was charged with assault and battery on a child under 14 causing injury, according to an official BPD incident report and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Police officers also filed a child abuse report with state officials.

An innocent plea was entered on Platt’s behalf at a June 14 court appearance, and he was released without bail, according to DA’s Office spokesperson Jake Wark. Platt is due back in court on Aug. 11.

Platt did not return a Gazette message left on June 22 with a community center worker, who said Platt would be on duty that day. No one answered at a phone number listed for Platt’s Minden Street address, and there was no voicemail.

Platt’s attorney, Frank Mickelson, did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.

Platt, the top staff member at the Hennigan center, is a city employee at the Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF). BCYF spokesperson Sandy Holden said this week that the department was unaware of the charge against Platt and that she was “completely shocked” to hear about it from the Gazette.

“We have no idea [about the case], but we’re going to be following up on it ASAP,” Holden said.

The Hennigan is operated by a separate non-profit organization called Jamaica Plain Community Centers (JPCC) in collaboration with BCYF. JPCC puts programming into the centers, while BCYF provides staff members. Kerry Costello, chairperson of the JPCC board, told the Gazette this week that she had not heard about the charge against Platt.

The BPD report does not state the age of Platt’s daughter, but identifies the alleged assault victim as 13 years old. The report said that the two girls had an ongoing conflict, including a history of fights. The alleged victim reportedly was hanging out at the Hennigan School playground on the afternoon of June 13 when Platt spotted her, then “went across the street, to his home, got his daughter…and instigated a fight between the two girls.”

The BPD report says that cell phone video taken by an unidentified witness shows “the victim and the suspect’s daughter fighting and the suspect standing around watching and antagonizing the girls. During the video, as the victim overtook the daughter, the suspect leaned down, grabbed the victim by her face, and threw her on the ground.”

The alleged victim claims that Platt also punched her in the face at that time. The BPD report says: “Officers could not clearly see [in the video] what occurred after this but did see the victim lying on the ground, holding her face….” The victim required medical attention, according to the report.

The witness who took the cell phone video also reported that after the fight, Platt told his daughter, “Every time you see [the victim], you better fight her.”

Platt has been involved in local community centers for at least 17 years and is the longtime program supervisor at the Hennigan. In 1996, the Gazette reported on his efforts to broker peace among some youths involved in turf-war street violence.