Gordy Sussman, 51, founder of Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison, Wis., was charged in Dane County Circuit Court on Thursday, Sept. 4, with two counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, two counts of showing pornography to a child and seven counts of possession of child pornography.
Darren Bush and Jeff Weidman, owners of Rutabaga since Oct. 31, 2002 when Sussman sold the store to them, told SNEWS® in a prepared statement that, "We were very disturbed to learn about the allegations. These are serious charges. Many of us here have our own children and know how parents must feel seeing this kind of local news."
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began over a year ago, following allegations made by a boy that Sussman was mentoring through the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. On July 16, 2002, police seized two computers from Sussman's office (at Rutabaga) and at his home. On the computers, investigators discovered more than 100 photos of nude boys, as well as evidence the office computer was used to visit websites with pictures and fantasy stories about boys.
Through his attorney, Steve Hurley, Sussman has denied having any sexual contact with the boy. Hurley has also been quoted as saying that the credibility of the boy listed as the victim "isn't very high."
Local papers in Madison splashed headlines about the case this morning triggering emails and phone calls to the SNEWS offices.
To read the story published in the Wisconsin State Journal, click here: www.madison.com/wisconsinstatejournal/local/56157.php
Bush summarized what all of Sussman's friends feel about the allegations, "The sort of behavior that has been alleged is highly inconsistent with my observations of Gordy over the last 12 years."
SNEWS View: Let's take Bush's comments one step further. While the news reports and allegations are shocking, Sussman does not deserve the public pillorying that is being leveled at him. Reading between the lines of Hurley's statement that the boy's credibility is not very high, one could surmise that this is not the first time the boy has leveled such molestation charges. Unfortunately in molestation cases, especially those involving a high-profile figure, as Sussman is in the Madison area, police investigators leak information to the press before charges are filed. That causes the media circus to begin and for the media to run with stories that, essentially, paint the accused as guilty before the trial even occurs – an attitude we need to temper. Now the case is in the court's hands. We remind everyone -- mostly those who do not know Sussman because all who do simply do not believe the allegations in any way -- that he is innocent until proven guilty. Insiders tell us this boy has a history of such allegations. If true, that will come out in court and Sussman, we hope, will be exonerated. Sussman has given his life to assisting youth, to protecting wild lands and waterways, and to promoting and growing the paddlesport industry. He has earned all the support that is now being thrown his way in bucket loads as he seeks to clear his name through the judicial system.