Well, it seems there's a twist to the Erin Cox saga, and it's a doozie.
You may remember her as the North Andover (Mass.) High volleyball player suspended for five games and stripped of her captaincy when she was reportedly summoned to face minor in possession of alcohol charges in court -- only Cox, her family and their lawyer claimed she arrived sober to the party in order to give a drunk friend a ride home.
Boxford Police Officer Brian Neeley, who arrived on scene that night, even supported the family's claim, sending the following email obtained by the North Andover Citizen to North Andover Public Schools assistant superintendent Gregg Gilligan.
Mr. Gilligan on September 28, 2013 at 22:44 I responded with several other officers to an under aged party 732 Main St., Boxford. Erin Cox was one of many people under the age of 21 at the residence. I had the opportunity to speak with and observe Erin Cox while waiting for her mother to arrive. Erin did not have the slightest odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person. She was polite, articulate, steady on her feet, and very remorseful for her decision to go into the residence but was only helping out a friend that had called her for a ride. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
As a result, the national blogosphere -- including Prep Rally -- roundly blasted the school's administration for levying a penalty against a student-athlete for using what appeared to be sound judgment. But a different side of the story is emerging.
The Valley Patriot reporter Tom Duggan cited law enforcement sources, social media accounts from fellow students and their parents as well as comments on both the Boston Herald and WGBH reports in calling Cox's version of the night's events "a lie."
"What the media reported was the details of the student and her family and their attorney, and they just ran with it as if her version was fact," a North Andover Police Officer told The Valley Patriot Monday. "We now know that her version is in dispute, and there is a lot of evidence to show she was at that party a lot longer than she claimed."
In a Facebook thread shared in those comments sections, students accused Cox of not only being at the party for a longer period of time, but also drinking alcohol -- even to the point of vomiting, as one commenter avowed. Another commenter also asserted that all party attendees, including Cox, were driven home from the party by their parents.
The Valley Patriot also directed readers to a Go Fund Me page established on Cox's behalf. The page's creator announced his decision to refund donations at the Cox family's behest.
Thank you all for your generousity to the Erin Cox Fund. I have been informed by Erin’s mother that she would like your donations to go to MADD or to the charity of your choice. “Go Fund Me” is a great tool for donating to noble causes, however I have learned that the Erin Cox story is still developing and I believe it is best to refund all donations at this time.
Like all of you, I wanted to do something good for a student that seemed to be unfairly treated by her high school. This fund is something that I would have created for anyone in need of social justice. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your incredible generosity. At this time, it is best to accept the refund and if the Erin Cox story still interests you please follow the North Andover Citizen online.
You are all amazing people.
Likewise, North Andover Public Schools superintendent Kevin Hutchinson released a statement last week informing the media of the administration's legally informed decision not to comment on the matter, but also defending their investigation into violations of a statewide chemical health rule that "prohibits student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption or distribution."
However, that email from a Boxford cop on site opposes this narrative put forth by unnamed police sources apparently not on site and a number of internet commenters. And the fact police reportedly required Cox's mother to drive her home doesn't necessarily mean she didn't arrive at the party intending to give her friend a ride. In a statement to The Valley Patriot, the Cox family's attorney argued as much.
Silly claims meant to distract public attention and insulate the North Andover School District from shame will not be dignified. The statement of a police officer at the scene was provided in court and to North Andover school officials making it very clear that Erin Cox did not have even the “slightest” odor of alcohol, had not been drinking, had no intention of drinking and was at the party to help a friend. The response to this information, submitted in court by the school’s lawyer and told to the judge, with the school’s principal present, falsely claimed that Erin had been “arrested at the scene.” This lie has fueled retaliation and more lies and will be addressed in litigation.
The Cox family has been offered money and other support from people around the country. We have growing concerns that people may be using this case to exploit concerned citizens by asking them to donate money to the Cox family. We have been asking people responsible for such funds to stop using the Cox family inappropriately, and if people want to donate money, please donate to MADD or a charity of their choice that deals with issues related to drunk driving. We have requested no money, received no money, and want no money. The lawsuit planned against the school district, and those who lied, will be filed, as with most cases like this one, based on a contingency fee relationship between the Cox family and their attorney, which means they are not in need of any legal defense funds.
So, from here on out, we'll self-impose a "fool me twice" policy to this saga. Before we start jumping on the Cox family for sticking to a falsified story as it received national media attention, maybe we should just let this one play out a bit more.