Hatfield schools cooperating with police following arrest of sports videographer on indecent assault charges
HATFIELD — Smith Academy officials say they are cooperating with police who continue to investigate allegations that a Hatfield man indecently assaulted a 14-year-old boy.
Prosecutors allege that Lee D. Sperry inappropriately touched the boy and made sexual advances on several occasions, including applying sunscreen as part of what he told the teen was a “sun protection program,” or “SPP,” according to court records.
Sperry, 66, of 66 Prospect St., pleaded not guilty Friday in Northampton District Court to one count of enticing a child under 16, two counts of indecent and assault and battery on a person 14 years or over, and one count of assault and battery.
He was recently known for his role in filming the Smith Academy’s varsity boys basketball games.
Hatfield Superintendent John Robert said Sperry was not working on behalf of the schools. The games were filmed for airing on the local community access television station, according to prosecutors.
“He would come to the basketball games, he was doing that more for the kids,” Robert said. “He really didn’t have a role working with the school. It’s not something we asked him to do. He didn’t have any official capacity with the school at all.”
The charges against Sperry stem from a series of incidents between May and August of this year during which the alleged victim worked on properties owned by Sperry. Land records show Sperry owns several properties on Prospect Street and Raymond Avenue in Hatfield and Barrett Street and Wright Avenue in Northampton.
Sperry met the alleged victim through one of his friends, according to prosecutors.
Sperry traveled by bus with the Smith Academy boys basketball team to at least one away game last year and school officials said they conducted a criminal background check on him before allowing him to do so.
“It came back fine,” Robert said.
Robert said he planned to talk with police Tuesday to cooperative with their investigation and ensure Sperry is prohibited from school grounds.
“We’re going to work very closely with police,” he said. “They’re taking the lead on this.”
In a letter dated Tuesday, Robert informed district parents of the situation and said, “We will remain vigilant as we keep your child’s safety and welfare our No. 1 priority.”
Sperry, who could not be reached for comment, was released on $5,000 bail after his arraignment and must abide by several conditions set by a judge, including that he have no unsupervised contact with children under 16, discontinue all work, volunteer or otherwise, at Smith Academy, and stay away from the alleged victim and his family. Sperry also must wear a GPS monitoring bracelet to comply with the conditions.
According to criminal complaint filed by a state police detective, Sperry hired the alleged victim around May 30 to work on his properties, meeting with the boy’s parents first and paying him $9 per hour for tasks such as mowing lawns and light carpentry work.
Sperry bought the boy lunch and dinner early in his employment and took him on what he called “field trips” including a game at Westfield State University, for which he paid him a reduced rate of $5 per hour, according to the criminal complaint. Sperry picked the boy up at his house at 2:30 p.m. and returned him at 10:30 p.m. that day without knowledge of the alleged victim’s parents.
About three weeks into his employment, the victim reported to investigators that Sperry would ask him to take his shirt off on hot days while he was mowing. The teen reported feeling “very uncomfortable” with Sperry’s sunscreen applications, which included having the victim reclined at times, and being paid to sunbathe for hours.
Sperry told the alleged victim that he had a sexual attraction to him and one particular day stated that “he wasn’t sure what it was and that he was emotionally confused,” according to the court complaint.
According to a police report, the victim stated that he thought he could put up with Sperry’s behavior because the money he was paying him was good. The boy informed his parents of his interactions with Sperry on the latter’s properties in July, and they contacted authorities.
Sperry was arrested Aug. 15, following a joint investigation by Hatfield police and state police detectives.
The Northwestern district attorney’s office is encouraging anyone with information related to the case or Sperry’s involvement with juveniles to contact the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit at 586-9225, or text an anonymous tip by dialing 274637 on a cellphone and typing the keyword PROTECT in the subject line followed by a message.
Dan Crowley can be reached at email@example.com.