Helena Diocese Files for Bankruptcy, Seeks to Settle 362 Claims of Sexual Abuse

Helena Diocese Files for Bankruptcy, Seeks to Settle 362 Claims of Sexual Abuse

 Attorney Dan Fasy to NBC News: The Abuse in the Helena Diocese case was “widespread … (and) some of the most horrific abuse we’ve dealt with.”

 

Editor’s note: On Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena, Montana filed for bankruptcy protection in an effort to settle 362 claims of sexual abuse by clergy. It signals the near end of more than two years of litigation and legal talks.

Kosnoff Fasy, together with three other law firms, filed suit against the Helena Diocese in September 2011, alleging that church officials failed to protect hundreds of minor children from clergy and other employees, who were sexual abusers.

The majority of victims in this case came forward to protect future generations of children. As one victim put it: “It’s wrong what happened to me and to other children. People need to know what happened. I don’t want it swept under the rug.”

The plaintiffs’ legal team includes: Kosnoff Fasy of Seattle, Datsopoulos MacDonald & Lind of Missoula, Montana; James Vernon and Weeks of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Joseph Blumel of Spokane, Wash.

Read more: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/31/22524555-catholic-diocese-in-helena-mont-files-for-bankruptcy-to-resolve-sex-abuse-lawsuits?lite – http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/31/22524555-catholic-diocese-in-helena-mont-files-for-bankruptcy-t

Lawsuit Filed Against LDS Church for Covering-up Sex Abuse

Editor’s note: Kosnoff Fasy, together with attorney Robert Fitzsimmons from Wheeling, West Virginia and attorney Carl Kravitz from the Washington, D.C. law firm of  Zuckerman Spaeder, filed a civil lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints on behalf of a dozen sexually abused minor children, alleging that church officials failed to protect them from a known sexual predator they allowed to serve as a babysitter for church families.

The following is an article, which appeared in the Journal-News from Martinsburg, West Virginia.

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“Lawsuit filed against church for cover-up of sex abuse

October 25, 2013
By Edward Marshall (emarshall@journal-news.net) , journal-news.net

 

MARTINSBURG – A lawsuit filed in Berkeley County against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, and local church officials accuses church leaders of covering up allegations that the son of local church officials sexually abused 12 children over the course of more than five years.

Christopher Michael Jensen, 22, of Cheswick Drive, Martinsburg, was found guilty of one count of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse by a custodian Feb. 6 following a jury trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

The criminal charges involved only two of the 12 children suing the church, who were ages 3 and 4 at the time of the abuse.

Jensen was sentenced July 29 to 35 to 75 years in prison. He was the son of a church high priest in the church’s Hedgesville Ward and his mother previously served as a local Relief Society president with the church. The suit accuses church leaders of holding out Jensen as a church member who could provide leadership and counsel to young church members, even though the church was allegedly repeatedly put on notice or had knowledge about allegations that Jensen had sexually abused children of church families. The suit also accuses church officials of recommending Jensen as a babysitter for church families, despite allegedly being made aware of sexual abuse allegations as early as 2007.

The children suing the church were between the ages of 3 and 12 when they say they were sexually abused by Jensen.

The suit names the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the church; Don Fishel, who was the bishop of the Hedgesville Ward for the Martinsburg stake of the church between 2007 and 2013 and a former member of the Stake High Council for Martinsburg; Steven Grow, stake president in Martinsburg; Jensen, who was a member and elder of the Hedgesville Ward of the church; Jensen’s father, a high priest and member of the Stake High Council for Martinsburg between 2007 and 2010;

and Jensen’s mother, a member of the Hedgesville Ward and Relief Society president for the church in Martinsburg between 2006 and 2009.

The Mormon Church is divided into various “wards” and “stakes.” At the local level are wards, consisting of a geographic area administered by a bishop and two counselors. A cluster of eight to 12 wards is grouped into a stake, which is administered by a stake president. The Relief Society is the official adult women’s organization of the church and members are considered to be spiritual leaders appointed by a ward bishop.

A stake, including the wards within a stake, is governed by the stake president and the Stake High Council, a body of 12 high priests.

In 2007, before the alleged abuse of the children suing the church began, Martinsburg’s Stake High Council – whose members included Grow, Fishel and Jensen’s parents -held a meeting, during which the alleged sexual abuse of two children by Jensen was allegedly discussed, a copy of the suit reads.

The council allegedly failed to report the allegations of abuse to authorities, as required by law, and Fishel denied the allegations as hearsay. Jensen’s parents allegedly learned that their son was sexually abusing at least one child sometime between 2006 and 2007.

After learning of the abuse, Jensen’s parents allegedly banished him from the family home and made him sleep in the backyard but, at the time, allegedly encouraged church families to use their son as a babysitter, the suit reads.

In early 2008, one of the victims suing the church, a 4-year-old boy, told Jensen’s mother that Jensen had sexually abused him. In 2008, Fishel, who was also allegedly already put on notice that Jensen had been accused of sexually abusing children, was told by the mother of another alleged victim that Jensen had abused her younger son.

The suit alleges that instead of reporting the abuse to authorities or taking action to warn or protect other children, the church, through its agents, took the opposite approach. The suit accuses the church and church leaders of actively covering up the abuse and assisting Jensen in committing further acts by enabling him to babysit for and live with other church families with young children. The pattern allegedly continued for more than five years until Jensen was indicted in 2012 in Berkeley County.

The suit says the church has not accepted responsibility for what it allegedly did or failed to do, despite allegedly being confronted with information about the alleged abuse on several occasions.

The suit also alleges that the church has continued its cover up, sending emissaries from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Martinsburg to instruct witnesses not to talk with attorneys representing the children suing the church.

In addition, the suit alleges that the church, through its leaders, has tried to intimidate the families of the children suing the church and has allegedly directed fellow church members to try to convince them to abandon their claims “lest they run afoul of church teachings regarding forgiveness,” a copy of the suit reads.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The Mormon Church receives $5 billion to $7 billion per year in tithing from members and Time magazine estimated in 2001 that the Mormon Church owned financial assets and real estate in excess of $120 billion, according to the suit.

“Punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, are not only warranted in these circumstances, but also are necessary to send a message to this institution and its agents that abusing young children is not acceptable, that compliance with secular laws requiring that sex abuse be reported to the authorities is mandatory and that the church’s self-interest cannot be elevated over the needs of young children,” a copy of the suit reads.

On Aug. 18, the Martinsburg Stake High Council excommunicated Jensen from the church.

-Staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182.”

FOR FURTHER READING:

Read the lawsuit here: 2013-10-24 — Jane Doe-1 et al v LDS, Berkeley County, West Virginia, Civil Action Number 13-C-656

http://journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/600380/Lawsuit-filed-against-church-for-coverup-of-sex-abuse.html

 

 

 

UPDATE: California’s Senate Bill 131 Still Awaiting Signature

UPDATE: California’s Senate Bill 131 is still on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting signature. SB 131 faces strong opposition. Supporters, as well as critics, are making their opinions known to the governor. We’ll know by Oct. 11th – 30 calendar days from when the governor received the bill – if it becomes law.

Governor Brown has three options for SB 131: Veto the bill, sign it or let it become law without signing it.

SB 131 gives sexual-abuse survivors a one-year window of opportunity to file a civil suit previously time-barred by statute of limitations. Victims could file a case against their abuser or their abuser’s employer. The window to file such cases would be open from 2014-2015.

Stand up for sex-abuse victims in California. Call Gov. Brown’s office at: 916-445-2841 or email him via the governor’s website at:  http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php.

Reform Legislation Aiding Sex-Abuse Victims Inches Forward in California

UPDATE: Reform legislation in California benefitting victims of childhood sexual abuse cleared a big hurdle earlier this week. And now there are two more steps to go before a significant bill becomes law.

Senate Bill 131 would give sexual-abuse survivors a one-year window of opportunity to file a civil suit previously time-barred by statute of limitations. Plaintiffs could file a case against their abuser or their abuser’s employer. The window to file such cases would be open from 2014-2015.

On Sept. 4, SB131 passed the California Assembly with 44 yeas, 15 nays and 19 abstaining from voting. The bill now heads back to the Senate for amendments to be voted upon. The bill needs  21 of 40 votes to be approved. The bill is expected to be voted upon by week’s end.

If the measure passes the Senate, it will advance to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, where the governor has 30 days to sign it into law. If signed by the governor, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

SB 131 has been one of the tougher fought pieces of statute-reform legislation in the country. The bill faced intense opposition from critics, who have argued that the bill unfairly singles out the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts, and other private and nonprofit employers and exposes them to lawsuits over decades-old allegations tough to defend in court. We see it as necessary for abuse victims, giving them a much-needed shot at justice for cases typically not prosecuted under criminal statutes. SB 131 was defeated earlier this session but eventually passed the Senate last month in a comeback vote.

We’ll continue to keep a close eye on SB 131. We were curious to see if Gov. Brown had a statement or has indicated how he’ll vote on this. So far, we’ve not heard back from the governor’s press office, so we’ll continue to keep an eye on this. SB 131 is watershed legislation for sexual-abuse victims and could lead the way for other states to follow.

Contact:

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, child sex-abuse attorney: 425-830-8201
Dan Fasy, child sex-abuse attorney: 206-462-4338
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

 

 

Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico is Set to File for Bankruptcy Protection as it Seeks to Address a Growing Number of Childhood Sexual-Abuse Cases

For sex abuse survivors from Northwestern New Mexico and Northern Arizona, now is the time to come forward.

We can help.

But time is of the essence. And it’s important to act promptly.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico has announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month, faced with a growing number of child sexual-abuse claims against members of its clergy.

Those abused by Catholic clergy or employees of the Gallup Diocese may be able to file a claim in U.S. bankruptcy court.

However, these cases also come with a ticking time clock known as a “claims bar date.” After a deadline is set, abuse claims can be barred by statute of limitation.

The Diocese of Gallup has parishes in six counties in New Mexico, three counties in Arizona and at seven Native American reservations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and parts of the Apache reservations. There have been a number of accused pedophile priests from this diocese, including Rev. Clement A. Hageman, Rev. Paul Sanchez and Rev. John T. Sullivan, according to Bishopaccountability.org, a watchdog group that tracks clergy sexual abuse.

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Bishop James S. Wall read a letter to church-goers, telling them that in the face of insurmountable lawsuits the diocese saw few options but to seek protection from the courts, Catholic News Service reported.

“Given the financial circumstances of the diocese, I have come to the conclusion that the only fair, equitable and merciful way to balance these obligations is by filing a Chapter 11 reorganization,” Bishop said in a prepared statement.

The Gallup Diocese will be the ninth U.S. diocese or archdiocese to file for bankruptcy protection since 2004.

If you have been abused or have information about someone you know who has been abused, contact me at: dan@kosnoff.com. Or call our office at: 206-257-3590 or toll-free at: 855-LAW4CSA, 855-529-4272.

For further reading:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2013_09_03_Hardin_Burrola_Diocese_of_Gallup.htm

http://www.catholicsun.org/2013/09/03/diocese-of-gallup-n-m-poised-to-file-for-bankruptcy-protection/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/04/us-usa-church-abuse-idUSBRE98304G20130904

Contact:

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, child sex-abuse attorney: 425-830-8201
Dan Fasy, child sex-abuse attorney: 206-462-4338
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

 

Thirteen newly accused sexual predators, a dozen victims, identified in sex-abuse case against Boy Scouts of America

From PRNewswire: 

“For immediate release

Thirteen newly accused sexual predators, a dozen victims, identified in sex-abuse case against Boy Scouts of America

Lawsuit identifies the largest number of previously unknown pedophiles in a single court filing against the Boy Scouts, attorneys say

____________________________________________________

(SEATTLE) – Aug. 29, 2013 – Attorneys for sex-abuse victims on Thursday filed a civil lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, alleging that America’s largest youth-serving organization was negligent and failed to protect youth in its care, resulting in the sexual assaults of 12 boys from Washington state. Most of the alleged incidents took place at camps operated by the Boy Scouts

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California Set to Vote on ‘Window Legislation,’ Giving Abuse Survivors One Year to File Civil Lawsuits

By Martha Modeen

We’re keeping our eye on legislation in California.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse in California could have one more year to file civil lawsuits against alleged abusers under a bill that passed a key legislative committee this week. SB131 now heads to the full Assembly for a vote.

“Due to the nature of sex-abuse injuries, survivors often never come forward,” said Dan Fasy, partner at Kosnoff Fasy. “This legislation, if successful, will give victims in California one more shot at justice.”

Tim Kosnoff, partner at Kosnoff Fasy, agreed.

“This is an important development, and it’s gratifying to see,” Kosnoff said. “We’re seeing significant progress across the country benefiting abuse survivors.

The arc of history favors the just cause.”

This week’s successful vote comes one week after it failed in committee. SB 131 fell three votes short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week after six Democrats did not vote. California State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) asked for reconsideration and, the bill passed on Wednesday, Aug. 21 on an 11-3 vote, with three members not voting. SB 131 is now headed to the full Assembly for a floor vote.

For further reading:

http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/08/from-failed-to-pass-assembly-committee-revives-sex-abuse-bill.html

http://www.pe.com/local-news/politics/jim-miller-headlines/20130821-legislature-sex-abuse-survivor-bill-advances-on-second-attempt.ece

A Look Back, a Look Ahead: What’s Changed for Sex-Abuse Cases in the Last 20 years

By TIM KOSNOFF
Two years ago, Simon and Schuster published “The Sins of Brother Curtis,” a book about a case of mine from the 1990s, which stretched for five years, start to finish. It was a transformative time for me. Not only was it my first civil case representing abuse victims, it also launched me in a completely different area of the law, from working as a criminal defense attorney to exclusively representing childhood sexual abuse survivors. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I was among the first of a handful of attorneys in the country to identify themselves as a child sexual-abuse lawyer.

Since the book’s publication, Lisa Davis’s expose about child sexual-abuse in the Mormon Church has garnered well-earned recognition. The book has helped raise awareness about the ability and willingness of leaders of powerful institutions to tolerate and protect pedophiles within their ranks.

The book continues to be discovered, as it should be. This past spring, reviewer Julie Smith reposted a review:
“When Jeremiah [Scott] was young, he had been repeatedly molested by a Mormon Church elder. The church ‘bishop’ had been notified, but nothing was done. In uncovering the truth behind Jeremiah’s molestation by Brother Frank Curtis, [Tim] Kosnoff and his team also uncover a decades-long (1977-1991) string of molestations by Frank, in three different Mormon wards, as well as the now grown-up 20 other victims, one of them having spent time in a juvenile facility, himself accused of molestation. They also uncover what appears to be a pattern of cover-ups and misdirection on the part of the Mormon leadership that allowed this type of molestation to occur with other youth leaders.”
Continue reading

Minnesota is the latest state to change its laws, giving childhood sexual-abuse victims a better chance for justice

By DAN FASY

It’s been happening around the country, most recently in Minnesota. States are revising statutes of limitation for civil cases, providing abuse survivors more options to pursue cases previously barred. Last month, the Minnesota state Senate passed a bill – as did the House – affirming that the opportunities for bringing civil cases involving child sexual abuse must be expanded. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law May 24th.

The Minnesota Senate event was attended by a man named Joel Juers, an adult who was victimized as a child by a pedophile. He told reporters after the Senate vote:

“It was a powerful moment. There were so many positive emotions that I couldn’t even cry.”

The Minnesota new law is known as The Child Victims Act. When it became law, it altered, expanded, and in some cases eliminated a statute of limitations for civil suits charging child sexual abuse. This means that victims who were sexually abused when they were younger than 18 years old may commence a lawsuit for damages arising from the abuse at any time, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.  Defendants in future cases, of course, likely will include church institutions and other well-known organizations.

The legislation also provides a three-year period, during which victims whose claims would have been time barred by the previous statute of limitations, to bring civil suits against alleged abusers.

We at Kosnoff Fasy have represented hundreds of victims of alleged child sexual abuse in cases involving the Catholic and Mormon churches and the Boy Scouts of America. And we will continue to take cases arising in Minnesota.

As for Joel Juers: He has become a name and face for the refusal to succumb to the challenges he has faced. The following excerpts are from a recent story by Rebecca Rodenborg in the Faribault (Minnesota) Daily News:

“The man previously only identified as ‘Joel’ in a story about alleged sex abuse at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 1980 has now found a reason to come forward more publicly.

Joel Juers was just 14 years old when he says he was sexually abused by now former . . . teacher Joseph Machlitt. He didn’t tell police until last fall, when he said he realized Machlitt was recently employed as a tutor for Hispanic students in Edina.

Now at the age of 47, Juers has no chance for justice against his alleged abuser. Criminal charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired.

“… Called the Minnesota Child Victims Act, [the legislation] would allow anyone who was sexually abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit at any time against his or her abuser or the institution that facilitated the abuse — no matter how long ago it occurred.

Advocates like Juers say the new law would encourage victims of child sex abuse to come forward and potentially identify abusers who have never been caught and are still abusing children.

Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, offered this perspective:

“Pedophiles don’t retire. Even when it’s 30 years after the abuse, the perpetrator is still alive. Maybe they’re in a walker or a wheelchair, but they may still be molesting kids.”

And, we would add, even if they aren’t any longer sexually molesting children, they still must be brought into court and face justice in civil cases. Contact us at Kosnoff Fasy if you agree.

Our attorneys are highly experienced in child sexual abuse law and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.

 

Toll free: 855-529-4274
Tim Kosnoff, direct: 425-837-9690
Dan Fasy, direct: 206-462-4338
Kara Tredway, direct: 206-453-0579
Kosnoff Fasy, Seattle office: 206-257-3590

Time for Boy Scouts of America to confront the difference between pedophilia and homosexuality, says Kosnoff Fasy

“SEATTLE, May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Attorneys suing the Boy Scouts of America for child sexual abuse and failing to protect children said Thursday that today’s vote to remove a ban on gay scouts will clarify the sharp difference between homosexuality – a preference for members of one’s own sex – and pedophilia, a major crime.

Today’s vote could lead to better safety for children, if the Boy Scouts learn from past mistakes, said Tim Kosnoff , a Seattle attorney who has represented more than more than 100 boys and men sexually victimized within scouting. Kosnoff and his law partner, Dan Fasy , now represent more than 80 clients nationwide suing the Boy Scouts for sexual abuse.

“Parents should not fear gay scouts. They should fear the organization’s refusal and failure to protect their boys from the real threats – sexual predators and an organization that has routinely covered up and not reported crimes to law enforcement.”

During the past decade, Kosnoff studied the Boy Scouts’ historical records, more than 30,000 internal files documenting allegations of child sexual abuse by adult scout volunteers. Kosnoff spent years compiling a database of sex-abuse claims using records from court cases.

Kosnoff found among nearly 50 years of the so-called “perversion files” or “ineligible volunteer” files:

* The problem of sexual abuse in scouting was not related to homosexuality but pedophilia – a completely unrelated phenomenon.

* The overwhelming percentage of files revealed that married men, outwardly “heterosexual men,” are responsible for the vast majority of child sexual victimization within scouting.

* Abusers often had a past history of being abused themselves as children.

* Teenage gay boys represented a miniscule threat, something found in academic research, as well.  (The Boy Scouts themselves consulted four experts in the field of child sexual-abuse prevention, and all four conveyed a nearly universal opinion that homosexuality is not a risk factor for the sexual abuse of children, the Associated Press reported in April.)

“The Boy Scouts have evaded analyzing their own files, to the detriment of children’s safety,” Kosnoff said, noting that pedophiles with prior abuse records were allowed to return to serve as scout leaders.

“The real issue is the Boy Scouts’ refusal and failure to implement reasonable safeguards that will protect all boys from sexual victimization by anyone.”

For years, Kosnoff has advocated for criminal background checks for adult scout volunteers, a “two-deep” leadership rule – mandatory two adults present at all times – and swift reporting of abuse claims to police, rather than self-styled investigations or no investigation by the Boy Scouts.

Gay boys should experience the same benefits that scouting offers to all scouts: honor, dignity, respect, patriotism, and the opportunity to learn leadership and outdoor skills, said Dan Fasy , Kosnoff’s law partner.

Fasy noted that the Boys Scouts of America was chartered by Congress in 1916 and today still receives substantial federal subsidies. Fasy called upon the Boy Scouts of America to stop discriminating or forego taxpayer subsidies.

“It is fundamentally un-American to deny opportunities to some boys,” Fasy said. “It’s just wrong.”

Tim Kosnoff is a former deputy prosecutor and longtime trial lawyer.  In the past 16 years, Kosnoff has represented more than 1,000 victims of childhood sex abuse. He has secured over $250 million in settlements and judgments for abuse survivors.

Dan Fasy is a partner at Kosnoff Fasy and has represented hundreds of injured clients.

Contact:
Tim Kosnoff , child sexual-abuse attorney/legal expert: 425-830-8201
Dan Fasy , child sexual-abuse attorney/legal expert: 206-462-4338″

Source: PR Newswire