After jail for sex offense, former Blackhawks video coach uses interns to start business

Former Chicago Blackhawks video coach and convicted sex offender Brad Aldrich says there is a key ingredient behind the growth of his glass engraving business: university and college interns.

Eight years after being sentenced to nine months in prison plus five years probation for sexually assaulting a then 16-year-old high school hockey player, Aldrich is the general manager of a glass engraving company called OcuGlass.

On his company’s website, Aldrich touts OcuGlass’s ties to several universities and colleges, which he says provide interns for the Calumet, Michigan-based company.

“OcuGlass plans to continue recruiting and working with talented students in all areas of their business,” wrote Aldrich in a March 13, 2019 post on the company website. “We are proud of the program that has taken place and we are extremely grateful for the efforts and contributions of the interns. “

According to Aldrich’s publication and local media reports, OcuGlass started operations in 2013 with four full-time employees. In 2018, it had 30 employees and the company said it hired 16 interns between 2015 and 2019 at schools such as Michigan Tech University, Finlandia University, Gogebic Community College, Northern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Michigan State University and Arizona. State University.

Along with his conviction for assaulting the teenage hockey player in Michigan, Aldrich is also charged in a May lawsuit in Illinois with sexually assaulting two Blackhawks players. Michigan police records indicate that Aldrich was also investigated for alleged “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable” sexual contact between Aldrich and at least two other minors, but no charges have been laid.

Elizabeth L. Jeglic, a psychology professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City who specializes in preventing sexual violence, said it would be a mistake for schools to continue to send interns to work under Aldrich’s guidance. .

“This is high risk behavior. He is in a position of power over the young men who are subordinate to him and, based on his belief, he is clearly drawn to young men in their late teens and early twenties, ”Jeglic said. in an interview with TSN.

“One thing you teach offenders is to stay away from situations where they might have the opportunity to reoffend. I don’t think, given the allegations against him and his conviction, that this is a good idea. If I was in charge of these internship programs, I would not continue with these programs.

Even so, the risk of recidivism for offenders like Aldrich decreases year after year without trouble, said Ira Ellman, a retired law professor who is now a researcher at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California. . , Berkeley.

Ellman said statistics show that upon release from prison, about 20 percent of offenders are likely to reoffend. Every five years, that percentage drops by half, he said.

“It’s a lot harder for him to get away with something than someone without a criminal background,” Ellman said in an interview with TSN. “So, you must be wondering what is the risk posed by someone who was clearly a risk at one point but has now been free of offense for almost a decade?”

Neither Aldrich nor his lawyer Sarah Henderson responded to email requests for comment.

Jared Peryam, a former Finlandia University football player in Hancock, Michigan, who is one of several student athletes listed as one of OcuGlass interns on the company’s Instagram account, declined a request for interview.

“He’s a great guy,” Peryam wrote in a message to TSN. ” Everybody makes mistakes. It’s in the past. People change.”

After TSN’s investigations, OcuGlass made its Instagram and Twitter accounts private.

The University of Finlandia said that a “small number” of its students have interned at OcuGlass and are studying the company’s internship program.

“We want to assure you and the campus community that we understand the significance of the situation and are conducting a full and thorough investigation into the matter, including whether any current or former Finlandia students have been sexually harassed. during their internship at OcuGlass We cannot provide further details at this time as our investigation is ongoing, but we are committed to ensuring that all of our students learn in a safe and harassment-free environment.

Several schools highlighted by OcuGlass on its website deny having any formal connection with the company.

Arizona State spokesperson Jerry Gonzalez wrote in an email to TSN that the OcuGlass had not been approved by the school as a licensed employer.

“Arizona State University has no connection with OcuGlass and is not authorized to recruit or hire from ASU,” Gonzalez wrote. “I don’t know why they used our name on their webpage. I guess it’s possible for something like an ASU online student who lives in this part of the country to land an internship at this company on their own. But if they did, it wasn’t something sanctioned by the university.

Spokesmen for Michigan State University and Northern Michigan University both said OcuGlass was not registered with their guidance service offices for formal internships. Neither would say if they would ask OcuGlass to remove references to their schools.

Michigan Tech spokeswoman Stefanie Sidortsova wrote in an email that Houghton University in Michigan does not screen potential students, whether permanent or temporary, and cannot confirm the number of students from the school who have completed an internship at OcuGlass.

“Because the internships are organized between students and employers, the university is limited in its ability to influence the progress of the internship,” Sidortsova wrote.

In his 2019 article on the OcuGlass Internship Program, Aldrich also described a co-op program the company runs with Dollar Bay High School in Dollar Bay, Michigan. Students design and produce three-dimensional prints for the OcuGlass production line, wrote Aldrich.

Dollar Bay High School principal Christina Norland confirmed the program.

“Our high school program has a business relationship with OcuGlass,” Norland wrote in an email. “Students 3D print a hard-to-find part that OcuGlass needs. This work is done at Dollar Bay High School, not at OcuGlass premises. Our OcuGlass point of contact is a different employee. Mr. Aldrich has not worked with or been in the presence of our students on any occasion. “

US federal law requires states to register sex offenders and notify the public when a convicted sex offender moves into a community. Aldrich is one of 39,918 registered sex offenders in Michigan, a Michigan State Police spokesperson told TSN.

As a “level two” offender (there are three levels), Aldrich must verify his information twice a year for 25 years after his release from prison in 2014. Failure to comply can constitute a crime.

Being on a public sex offender database means that with a few keystrokes anyone can find the home and work addresses of the former NHL assistant coach and the US Olympic team in Hancock, Michigan. , discover the make and model of vehicles. he drives and read that Aldrich is 5 feet tall, weighs 145 pounds, and has brown hair and blue eyes.

The state government database also allows searches by address, meaning anyone can extract the names, photos and other personal information of the 11 registered sex offenders, including Aldrich, who live within three kilometers from his home in Hancock.

But for the most part, Aldrich faces few restrictions on how he lives his life.

“He can’t live near a school, daycare or public park, but there really is no obligation for offenders to avoid and walk past those areas,” said Sam bennett, a defense attorney in Royal Oak, Michigan, whose clients include sex offenders.

“Being listed on this public register is probably the most difficult thing for [Aldrich] right now, ”Bennett said. “If you murder someone, you are doing your time and you are set free. There is no page you need to sign up for that says you killed someone. But people who get in trouble for a sex crime are followed by them – sometimes for the rest of their lives. A client of mine must have thrown his son away as a truck tried to run him over because someone had found him using this log.

Corey Markham, head coach of the Houghton High School hockey team, says he sees Aldrich in town regularly.

“He lives his life like he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Markham said in an interview. “I saw him come back to bars… have fun.

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