Washington (CNN) – Phillip Maxwell wishes he had done something to stop it.
Maxwell, a Michigan attorney, is still haunted by what he claims he witnessed on the campus of the state's elite Cranbrook School in 1965: a young Mitt Romney and a group of friends holding down a classmate named John Lauber and cutting off chunks of his long hair.
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"It was not an event you take a lot of pride in. And it was that way for all of us," Maxwell told CNN.
Maxwell confirmed the story, first reported in the Washington Post. However, he insisted the incident was far worse than a high school prank.
"I'm a lawyer. I know what an assault is. This kid was scared. He was terrified. That's an assault," Maxwell said.
Romney said in an interview with Fox News Radio he does not recall the incident described in the Post article. But the former Massachusetts governor acknowledged he engaged in pranks that "might have gone too far" and apologized for any harm done during his time at Cranbrook.
"Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that," Romney said.
Maxwell told CNN he is disappointed in Romney's response to the story.
"He says he doesn't remember it and I find it difficult to believe," Maxwell said in a telephone interview.
"It's unfortunate that Mitt simply hasn't owned up to his behavior," he added.
Maxwell, who told ABC News he is a registered independent who has voted for both Democrats and Republicans, said the episode is "relevant" in the campaign as a window into Romney's character.
"I guess you have to take it into account. Are you the kind of person who would stop the abuse of an innocent person?" Maxwell asked.
In an interview on a separate topic for the June issue of Automobile Magazine, however, Maxwell said he will not be casting his ballot for Romney, though added praise for the candidate.
"I'm a Democrat, so I won't vote for him," says Maxwell. "But he'd probably make a pretty good president. He's very smart, very principled.
To this day, Maxwell regrets he will never have the chance to make amends with Lauber who, according to the Post, died in 2004.
"I wish I could have apologized to him," Maxwell said.
Lauber's family said they were "aggrieved that John would be used to further a political agenda," according to a statement obtained by The New York Times.
Late Thursday, the Romney campaign provided statements from other former classmates of the GOP contender.
"Mitt was a thoughtful guy with a great sense of humor who cared about his classmates. He had a good perspective on how to balance all the pressures high school students face. He would never go out and do anything mean spirited. Clownish, yes. Never mean," Richard Moon, one ex-classmate said in the statement furnished by the campaign.
"Mitt never had a malicious bone in his body – trying to imply or characterize him as a bully is absurd," John French, another former classmate, said in another statement released by Romney's staff.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said French "wasn't involved in incident and doesn't remember it happening." She did not elaborate on the statement issued by Moon.
Prank? Holding someone down and forcefully cutting through their hair while they are in tears and yelling for help sounds like assault and battery to me.
oh I hate Bullies!!! I hope you fail in 2012 Mitt Romney!
Romney has a pattern of disturbing sociopathic behavior that will be excused by other sociopaths. His statements clearly indicate that he has no concept of how his actions impacted those he hurt. Bullies always justify their actions and minimize the impact on others and they will always support other bullies. He is not the type of person I want as president. This is not an issue of Democrat and Republican but of character and ability to act on the behalf of a nation.
I was inclined to dismiss this story as old news. But the others who took part in it still have raw feelings about it. It's particularly damning that even George W. Bush, in a similar situation, stood up for the gay person.
I had this very same thing happen to me when I was in school. Don't tell me it's just clownish behavior and not mean spirited, this definitely points to a disturbing personality trait, it's an arrogant elitist attitude and I know the sort of people who would do such a thing.
I agree just like we have to take into account the radicals that Obama has associated with. Hmmm which is more significant......
The only thing surprising about this story is that the Mitt campaign isn't spinning it in the other direction:
"That hippie had it coming! He was on track to turn into a lazy sponge off the government, and was in favor of environmental regulation that would have hurt the economy! Mitt and friends were just teaching him a valuable life lesson."
Very same thing happened to me in school. This is not just some clownish fun, it's absolutely a malicious, arrogant act by a person who feels they are better than you are and can force you to submit to their will.
He was a vicious bully when he was young, he was a vicious bully when he ran in the primaries, and he is still a vicious bully (his way or no way at all - but he is a liar and secretive bully so we'll never know what he's going to do for or to us until it is too late to change our minds about whetheer we want him for president or not.
I can tell you now, I don't. He is NOT to be trusted with the freedoms of Americans - unless you're super-wealthy (multi-millions and billions of dollars).
Kids like Mitt was/is don't see bullying as bullying, they see it as their entitlement. The same way as he jokes about working class people being laid off. This man has never lived in the real world and to him, most americans are just biomass, there to make him richer and more powerful.
You have to take into account idiotic stuff people did in high school? By that standard, pretty much no one is allowed to be president. Is there anyone who isn't ashamed by at least one thing they did as a kid?
Romney said, he did some dumb things during his school days? Can he come up with what are those "some dumb things"? He will be a good guy if he come up with those some dumb thnings....
yeah nothing like an apology 30 years later.
Being a fun-bully and mean-hypocrite is a requirement to join the Republicans since the 1950's.
As such, Bishop Romney's nomination will be gleefully assured by the full membership of God's-Only-Party.
Pastor Sean Harris will open the GOP convention by invoking deuteronomy to justify the resumption of homosexual stoning. This will be followed by the blessing of pork sandwiches, stylishly presented by finely attired slaves.
"Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that,"
A bit more than just a "dumb" thing. Organizing a gang of like-minded thugs to physically attack, manhandle, brutalize and humiliate another person is beyond dumb.
Forcefully cutting someone's hair, forcefully cutting someone's pension plan. I think there's a pattern.
Big surprise here! A bully and hater as a kid and continued into adulthood. We really want someone like this to be president? I for one do not!!
He is not only a liar but a bully, too.
Enough already- can we deal with REAL issues now??
This story bothers me because one part of life everyone remembers is high school. That time shapes us like no other. Everything we did right we brag about and hector our children with; and everything regrettable we did sticks in our memory no matter how hard we wish to forget it. When a man says, any man, I don't remember such an incident when I bullied another students is either proud of it or is still unwilling to confront that nasty past in himself. There is just something of a lack of character in a "I don't recall." It goes to a type of privilege that says I don't have to be responsible because of who I am. I don't like it; I can't trust it.
There are pranks and there then there is assault. Those thugs should have been arrested for their prank/assault.
If a group of people held Romney down and shaved his head he would be the first to scream assault.
I suppose if he had been perpetually stoned like Obama was during high school, he wouldn't have had the motivation to do something like that.
Obama must be really desperate to be digging up high school stuff to throw at Romney. Seriously? He was a kid. Now he's a grown up. Who didn't do something stupid as a kid?
This childhood incident proves Romney's leadership qualities started early. He is truly able to lead people to do bad things to other people.
Selective Memory. It's what all good candidates for the Presidency need.
Desperate Dems, grasping for straws!