Pete Philo Is Back In Court. His First Victim Never Got A Second Chance
9:02 AM EST on January 5, 2023
Pete Philo, a former NBA scout and pioneering foreign talent evaluator, has been arrested for alleged sex offenses. Again.
Philo is scheduled to be in Mecklenburg County (N.C.) District Court on Friday, Jan. 6, to face sexual abuse charges after the assault of a female employee at an outlet of the European Wax Center located in the Ballantyne Village shopping center in Charlotte. According to the arrest warrant, in the early afternoon of Feb. 22, 2022, Philo, 50, was accused of “grabbing the victim’s buttocks while embracing her, immediately after exposing his genitals to her.” The victim was 20 years old.
The assault in the day spa came mere months after Philo, a resident of Union County, N.C., got his name removed from the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry, a database for known sex offenders. He was on that state’s registry, as well as offender registries in New York and Texas, for raping and impregnating a 15-year-old girl in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at a boarding school where he worked as a counselor. After a bizarrely brief jail sentence for those crimes, he jumped right into a long career in NBA front offices.
I first looked into Philo’s story in 2019, when a group called the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame invited him back to the region where he grew up to honor him for his local hoops exploits as a schoolboy and his later NBA successes. Whatever his accomplishments, I thought it was odd that anybody Upstate, where his arrest and prosecution for sex crimes he committed in 1999 had gotten lots more attention than any of his basketball deeds, would want to celebrate him. I spoke with Philo shortly after the HOF induction. He expressed no remorse for his victim and lied about what he’d done even when it was obvious to me he knew that I knew that he was lying. He told me his criminal record only existed because he had sex with somebody he’d met only once in a bar who told him she was over 18, only to find out later that “she was a week away from 17.” He repeatedly said all acts were “consensual” and would be legal “in 30 states.” “Even in the state that I live in, this wouldn’t be an issue,” he told me.
I told him I’d read lots of court records and newspaper stories and talked to many folks involved in his rape case, and all of those sources put his victim’s age at 15 and say that he was her counselor at school and knew her family. Everybody else’s account was wrong, Philo said. He did not acknowledge the child that his victim had in January 2000 as his, and when I asked why, he blamed the courts and the kid’s mother for preventing him from being a father to the boy. He told me living as a registered sex offender all these years had been awful.
“I’ve gotten no breaks,” he said.
The 2019 hall of fame dinner where Philo was feted was held in Troy, N.Y.; his victim was living in Troy at the time. She spoke with me, too. She told me she was used to Philo’s lies and not surprised that he wouldn’t acknowledge his crime or her child. He’s been pretending he’s the victim from the start.
She told me a lot about the hardships and lasting hurt caused by what Philo had done to her as a kid.
“I was 15,” she said.
I recently tried to get in touch with her again. I intended to tell her that I would be writing a story on his Charlotte assault case so she wouldn’t be surprised when it appeared. I learned that she had died on January 25, 2022, a few weeks before Philo's arrest. Public officials in Rensselaer County and the city of Troy declined to release a cause of death. But her brother, who considered Philo a friend years ago when they were classmates in high school, told me it was a drug overdose. She was 38 years old.
“She never got over what happened,” her brother said. “The damage that guy did to my family…”
Philo had been a basketball star at Saratoga Springs High School in 1990 and 1991. He later played at Manhattan College for coach Fran Fraschilla and at the University of South Alabama under Bill Musselman, and kept his playing career going after college by signing with a series of European clubs. But by 26 years old, he was back in Saratoga County and working as a counselor at the Charlton School in Burnt Hills, N.Y. The school was originally founded in the late-19th century as a boarding school for orphans, and according to information on its website was later converted into a non-profit “residential treatment center and special education school” for juveniles in trouble. Students at the Charlton School live in cottages on campus. Philo raped and impregnated a ninth grader at the school in 1999.
The victim told me she had been placed at the boarding school as a 14-year-old because she had run away from home. She already knew who Philo was: He had been a friend of her family, she said, back when she was a preschooler. Philo would come by her house to hang out with her older brother when both boys attended high school.
“He used to babysit me,” she told me in 2019, when I first reported this story.
Philo used that familial relationship to gain her trust. She said that in January 1999, Philo began talking up their past connections while making nightly bed-check rounds at the cottages on campus where she and other students slept. She said she was too young to realize she was being groomed. Then Philo began bringing her to his off-campus apartment for sex. She told me she quickly became aware of “three other girls'" at the Charlton School who he’d also sexually abused.
“He’s a routine pedophile,” she said.
According to court records, in March 1999, she told a classmate about Philo taking her to his apartment. That classmate in turn told Charlton School administrators what she knew. When the administrators confronted Philo about the report, he denied any wrongdoing. Philo quit his job at the school shortly thereafter, and on his way out continued saying he’d had no inappropriate contact with students. According to a June 1999 story in the Albany Times Union about the burgeoning abuse scandal at the Charlton School, Philo claimed he'd only quit his job because his basketball agent told him the sexual misconduct rumors could derail his dream of someday having a coaching career.
As the scandal became a regional story, Charlton School administrators publicly backed Philo: Donald Marshall, executive director of the Charlton School, described Philo to the Times Union as a ''good-looking … and outgoing young man'' whose only offense was that he “said things (to students) that might get misinterpreted.''
The victim in the Charlton School criminal rape case said Philo would have gotten away with what he did to her, but "you got caught because you slipped up and got me pregnant."
When word of the pregnancy reached law enforcement, the school became a crime scene. She told the police that Philo was the father of the baby.
After leaving the Charlton School, Philo was working with the Saratoga County recreation department running a youth basketball program for third graders and up. But when his 15-year-old victim’s pregnancy became known, he had to quit that job too. He quickly fled to Europe, but was brought back to the U.S. after criminal charges were filed. According to a report in the Times Union, Philo was met at the airport by U.S. Customs officials, who seized his passport and turned him over to Saratoga County cops. He continued telling investigators that the pregnant student was lying about him being the father. The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported that Philo told a detective that he only "drove her around in his car," and that he had also told cops that his victim "had sexual intercourse with a third person."
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy III told the Glens Falls Post-Star that "Philo denied the allegations against him until a blood test was done using samples from the victim, Philo and the unborn fetus." Those tests, according to the newspaper, showed a 99.9 percent chance that Philo was the baby's father.
Philo then claimed the acts that led to the student’s pregnancy were consensual. An adult cannot legally make such a claim about a 15-year-old in New York, however, where the age of consent is 17. The baby was born on January 1, 2000.
In September 2000, Philo pleaded guilty to four felony counts of third-degree rape, four misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and four misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse. All 12 counts came from Philo’s misconduct with the ninth grader at the Charlton School. She told me in 2019 that school administrators and local law enforcement were aware of other students that Philo had abused. A report in the Schenectady Daily Gazette after Philo's arrest for raping the 15-year-old said that "Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer A. Jensen said two other girls, ages 16 and 14, allege they had sexual intercourse with Philo in the spring of 1999."
The parent of another Charlton student filed a lawsuit against the school after Philo’s arrest, alleging Philo had also sexually abused his daughter, and accusing the school of negligence in allowing it to happen. But that suit was dismissed before reaching a courtroom. “They just shoveled it beneath the rug,” the father who filed the lawsuit told me in 2019.
Philo was never indicted in cases involving students other than the 15-year-old, however, and he has always denied there were other victims at the school.
Philo faced 24 years in prison on the 12 counts he confessed to. According to a report in the Albany Times Union, prosecutor Jensen had asked Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano that Philo be sentenced to at least four years in prison. The Schenectady Daily Gazette reported that Philo’s attorney pleaded with Judge Scarano to go easy on his client, claiming that Philo “has a genuine interest in caring for his son" and that a long prison sentence "would only put off Philo's being able to fulfill his duty as a parent."
Judge Scarano showed Philo a criminal amount of mercy. Philo was initially sentenced to eight one-year terms and four 60-day terms. But then the judge said Philo could serve all the terms concurrently. That meant Philo was effectively given just a one-year sentence.
Prosecutor Jensen blasted the judge. ''To suggest we are disappointed in the sentencing is a gross understatement,'' said Jensen.
Judge Scarano also broke standard protocol by allowing Philo to be incarcerated in the Saratoga County jail instead of state prison. Jensen told reporters she had never seen a felony rape case in Saratoga County where the sentence was so short, and that she was not aware of a judge ever allowing a convicted rapist to serve all his time in the county jail.
I asked the victim and her older brother in 2019 why Philo got off so easily.
“Honestly, I hate to pull this card,” the victim told me, “but I think what happened was, this was a black family in Saratoga.”
According to U.S. Census figures, Saratoga County was 96 percent white in 2000 and just 1 percent black. Philo is white. His 15-year-old victim was black. And at the time of his crimes, Philo’s mother was an elected judge in the nearby town of Northampton, N.Y.
“This is white privilege,” the victim's brother told me. “It’s that plain.”
As it turned out, Philo wasn’t even forced to serve out his full sentence, meager as it was. New York state law allows a one-third reduction of a sentence for good behavior; Philo was released in May 2001, after spending just eight months in Saratoga County jail.
The system continued taking it easy on him even after Philo was freed. The victim told me in 2019 that for the first six years of her child’s life the county’s family court let Philo get away with paying only $50 a month in child support. She could not afford daycare, but took a night job at a local grocery store and depended on friends and family to care for her infant child as she worked.
Philo, however, was free to jump back into a basketball career. Philo left Upstate New York immediately after getting out of jail and moved to the Dallas area. Records from the Texas Department of Public Safety show Philo registered for the Texas sex offender registry with the sheriff’s department in Lewisville, Texas in June 2001.
A June 25, 2001 story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said Philo was among a group of 13 unsigned players invited to try out for the Dallas Mavericks. He didn’t land a roster spot, but Philo has told interviewers that his big break came when he befriended Mavs executive Donnie Nelson, who was elevated from assistant general manager to president of basketball operations in 2002. Nelson hired Philo as a scout and leaned on his experience playing in Europe.
Philo went on to hold positions in three NBA front offices from the early 2000s to 2016, and was viewed as way ahead of the curve in evaluating and valuing foreign ballplayers. A 2015 story in the New York Times credited Philo with the founding of Eurocamp, a gathering for European talent in Treviso, Italy “that became, for international prospects, the equivalent of the NBA combine.” Philo has said at least 82 players were drafted by NBA teams after attending EuroCamps he directed. During his time as international scouting coordinator for the Minnesota Timberwolves Philo got credit for convincing Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio to finally sign with the team two years after he was drafted.
In 2013, Indiana Pacers beat reporter Chris Goff told SB Nation that Larry Bird, newly installed as president of basketball operations for the franchise, created the position of director of international scouting so he could bring on Philo. “I don’t know anybody who has more knowledge of foreign talent in the NBA than Pete Philo does,” Goff said.
The Pacers and Philo parted ways in the spring of 2016, and neither Philo nor the team publicly disclosed why he left the job. Philo devoted his time to TPG Sports, an event production company he had founded while also holding scouting jobs with NBA teams. That outfit put on Pro Scout School, which beginning in 2014 became an annual gathering held in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League. where hundreds of wannabe scouts paid to schmooze with basketball elite. Pro Scout School seminars under Philo featured panels made up of NBA team presidents, coaches, general managers, and media stars. Philo also hosted a beach retreat that offered budding talent evaluators an audience with Jerry West, for a price. (In 2019, after Philo's sex offender past resurfaced, Philo announced he was selling Pro Scout School; according to the event's website, the school is now run by Pure Sweat Basketball, a company owned by NBA skills coach Drew Hanlen.)
Philo never bothered living up to his lawyer’s pledge, made as part of his successful plea for leniency, that Philo wanted to take care of the son he fathered with his former student. The victim told me that throughout all the years Philo was paying millionaires to show up at his resort events, he was also hiring lawyers that she couldn’t afford to fight her attempts to get child support payments increased. Philo also made sure to never pay child support on time, she said, even the meager amounts the justice system in New York let him get away with paying. “It’s due on the first. I cannot remember any time when I ever got it on the first or anywhere close,” she told me on June 18, 2019. “I still don’t have this month’s check.”
Philo never met the kid or even tried to, she told me.
Weeks after his victim's death, Philo was arrested for the alleged assault of a 20-year-old worker at the European Wax Center outpost. The manager of the day spa politely declined Defector’s request to discuss what happened there. According to his case file in Mecklenburg County District Court, Philo was picked up on one count of sexual battery: forcible fondling, and one count of indecent exposure. Both are misdemeanors. J. Bradley Smith of the Charlotte law firm Arnold and Smith, who is listed in court records as Philo’s attorney in the case, did not respond to requests for comment.
In September 2021, Union County District Attorney Pat S. “Trey” Robison III authorized the sheriff’s office to remove Philo’s name from the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry. In a memo sanctioning the expungement, a copy of which was obtained by Defector, Robison said his office “determined that the out-of-state convictions of [Philo] are not substantially similar enough to North Carolina offenses,” and therefore Philo did not belong on the state’s sex offender registry.
The memo did not explain what the specific differences between New York law and North Carolina law were that had swayed him. There is no jurisdiction in New York or North Carolina or anywhere else in the U.S. where an adult high school counselor can legally claim sexual acts with a 15-year-old student were consensual.
However, at some point while Philo was on the North Carolina sex offender registry, the age of Philo’s rape victim was changed on his registry page from 15 years old to 16 years old. The erroneous age seems significant—and not only because it matches the fictional account that Philo has been giving of his crimes. The age of consent in North Carolina is 16 years old, a year younger than New York state’s.
Robison, however, told Defector that the age error in the state’s offender registry played no part in Philo’s removal. He said all district attorneys in North Carolina were directed by the state legislature to review “all cases of out-of-state convictions [that came] prior to December of 2006 that put someone on our state’s sex offender registry.” And during that review of county residents on the registry, Robison's office determined Philo’s convictions in New York in 2000 would not land him on North Carolina’s registry under current laws in the state.
“Our review was not based upon any of the actual facts in the case, including the victim’s age,” he said.
It is not clear if Philo would have to re-register for the North Carolina offender database if he is convicted of the sexual battery and exposure charges. Meghan McDonald, spokesperson for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, said the prosecutor would not comment on Philo’s pending case.
Philo remains on the sex offender registry in Texas, where the age of his 1999 victim is correctly listed as 15 years old.
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