Dundee Ranch Academy Owner Acquitted of all Charges
OROTINA, Costa Rica - Narvin Lichfield, owner of Academy at Dundee Ranch, a boarding school for struggling teens, was found innocent of all charges of abuse brought against him four years ago.
In 2003, The Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office had accused the U.S. citizen of abuse allegedly inflicted on the American teenage students at Dundee Ranch, and it was shut down.
The academy served as a behavior modification program for mostly U.S. teens with behavioral and legal problems.
During the trial, a rare twist in the proceedings occurred: The prosecutor asked for dismissal. “ It was never proven that Lichfield was guilty in anyway in the case of aggression towards any youth, I do not have anything, ladies and gentlemen, honorable judges, therefore I ask for a decision of not guilty" said prosecutor Edgar Oviedo in conclusions yesterday, before the Penal Court of Alajuela, comprised of judges Rosario Alvarado, Hanna Sbravatti and the tribunal president Ana Maria Foyer.
After less than an hour of recess, the three judges in the case declared Lichfield innocent of all charges.
“We’re happy that the law and the system actually worked,” Lichfield told local Newspaper, The Tico Times, after the trial. Lichfield went on to state that when the school was raided,“Parents and staff were held at gunpoint while the Costa Rican prosecutor told the students that school rules no longer applied.” and “One parent had a gun held to her head and was ordered to hang up the phone as she attempted to call the U.S. Embassy for help.”
Julio Bustos, Lichfield’s defense, underlined two technical points:
1.That it was not proven that Agency of Judicial Investigation made any accusation or investigation.
2. That the journalistic scandal carried out by a national Costa Rican newspaper was all for show, going as far as to call Lichfield a “Torturer” the result of which was winning two awards, one in New York and another in Lorene de Tibias (Costa Rica).
The scandal that was created by the press over false allegations four years ago caused the closure of The Academy at Dundee Ranch, which, in turn, caused 150 residents of Orotina to lose their jobs.
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