Announcements

March 6, 2017

New Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against the Archdiocese of Agana and the Boy Scouts of America

(Tamuning, Guam) — The lawsuit is the first lawsuit filed against the Boy Scouts of America, the first lawsuit filed by an abuse survivor who alleges he complained about the abuse to the Archdiocese, and the first lawsuit filed by an abuse survivor who is jointly represented by a law firm from Guam and from the mainland.

A new sexual abuse lawsuit was filed today against the Archdiocese of Agana, the Boy Scouts of America, and Father Louis Brouillard, a former priest who served within the Archdiocese.

The plaintiff, Anthony “Tony” Flores, alleges he was sexually abused by Father Brouillard in the late 1970s when Mr. Flores and his family were parishioners at San Vicente Ferrer Catholic Church in Barrigada, Guam.

Mr. Flores alleges that he was an altar boy and parish Boy Scout when Brouillard used his position as a Catholic priest and Boy Scout leader to sexually abuse him. He alleges that Brouillard abused him multiple times in multiple occasions, including at an annual Boy Scout Jamboree. Mr. Flores claims he was approximately sixteen years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

Out of the recent cases filed against the Archdiocese, Mr. Flores is the first plaintiff to allege that he complained to the Archdiocese about the abuse by Father Brouillard but nothing was done. Mr. Flores alleges that he told Monsignor Zoilo Camacho that Father Brouillard was sexually abusing children at San Vicente Ferrer parish, but Monsignor Camacho did nothing in response. Instead, Mr. Flores alleges that Monsignor Camacho “snapped at him” and told him to “be quiet and get out of my office.”

Mr. Flores decided to come forward to help other abuse survivors and to seek closure: “I complained because I wanted to try to protect the other boys and I want to make sure they know I tried to protect them. If other people complained, or if other people know the Archdiocese or Boy Scouts were aware of what he was doing, I hope they will come forward, too.”

Mr. Flores is also the first plaintiff to name the Boy Scouts of America and the Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts of America as defendants. In his complaint, Mr. Flores alleges the Boy Scouts and their local council knew or should have known that Father Brouillard was using his position as the Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop for San Vicente    Ferrer Catholic Church to sexually abuse children. Mr. Flores alleges that “it was well-known for years that Brouillard used his position as Scoutmaster to take boys swimming in the nude and to sexually abuse young Scout campers during overnight and day trips.”

The complaint further alleges that the Boy Scouts of America knew that men like Father Brouillard were using leadership positions within Boy Scouts to groom and sexually abuse children, but nothing was done to warn them of that danger.

According to the complaint, the Boy Scouts in the 1920s began keeping records on adult volunteers that it deemed to be “ineligible” to volunteer for various reasons, including sexual abuse of children. Between 1965 and 1985, the complaint alleges the Boy Scouts created 1,123 files regarding Scout leaders who were alleged to have engaged in “perversion” with children, which is an average of more than one new file per week.

For example, in 1971, the Chamorro Council Scout Executive, Roger Pelz, reported that the Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 32, David Joseph Ellington, initiated sexual contact with two young boys at the U.S. Coast Guard Naval Station in Guam. Mr. Ellington subsequently left the area and relocated to Phoenix, AZ where he attempted to re-enroll in Scouting.

Mr. Flores alleges that despite knowing that more than a thousand men like Mr. Ellington had used Scouting to sexually abuse children, the Boy Scouts never warned him, his guardians, or other children about the danger of sexual abuse in Scouting.

Mr. Flores alleges the Boy Scouts knew that the ineligible volunteer file system was not working to prevent children from being sexually abused by Scout leaders. For example, the complaint alleges that in 1976, shortly before Mr. Flores claims he was abused, a Boy Scout executive wrote a confidential internal memorandum about the “perversion” files and acknowledged that “the Scout executive learns of improper conduct only after the individual has dropped out of Scouting or has been removed by the responsible local chartered organization.” Mr. Flores alleges the memorandum is an admission “that BSA’s existing policies and procedures were not working to protect boys from being sexually abused by Scout leaders.”

Mr. Flores’s lawsuit is also the first lawsuit to be filed jointly by a Guam law firm and a law firm from the mainland. Mr. Flores is jointly represented by Kevin Fowler of the Guam law firm of Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP and Michael Pfau of the mainland law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC.

According to Fowler, his law firm teamed-up with Pfau in order to help child abuse survivors protect and exercise their rights: “Over more than 20 years, our firm has represented dozens of at risk children who find themselves involved in the Guam court system. It was only natural for our firm to step up to help survivors of child abuse, but we wanted to make sure that we teamed-up with a law firm that has a significant amount of experience in this unique area of the law.”

Pfau and his firm have represented hundreds of sexual abuse survivors across the United States, including many cases against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America. He has also been closely involved in a number of the Catholic bankruptcies. Pfau is interested to see how the Archdiocese and Boy Scouts handle the lawsuits that have been filed: “I’ve handled many abuse cases against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts. They normally start by denying everything, and the Church will usually try to hide behind the First Amendment to avoid accounting for what it knew.  If the Archdiocese wants to be transparent, it should release its files on Father Brouillard and other priests who have been accused of molesting children. The Church has done this in Chicago and other places, so there is no reason the Archdiocese cannot do it here.”

Fowler is hopeful the lawsuits will lead to closure for Mr. Flores, other abuse survivors, and the local community: “The recent change in the law for child sexual abuse survivors is important because their abuse was too often kept in the dark. A lot of abuse survivors do not realize until much later in life how badly they were harmed by the abuse, and taking control of what happened is usually the first step toward closure. The abuse survivors, and our community, deserve to know not just what happened, but how it happened and how it can be prevented in the future.”

January 25, 2017

Backpage.com and Its Executives Named in Four New Lawsuits in Washington, California, Texas, and Alabama

The lawsuits are believed to be the first cases in the country where the company’s CEO and owners are named as defendants.

Four new lawsuits were filed today against the owners and operators of www.backpage.com, including the company’s CEO, Carl Ferrer, and two of the website’s long-time owners, James Larkin and Michael Lacey.

KEY DOCUMENTS

The plaintiffs in each lawsuit allege they were teenager girls when they were sold for sex on the website by sex traffickers.  Two plaintiffs jointly filed suit in Washington, one plaintiff filed suit in California, one plaintiff filed suit in Texas, and one plaintiff filed suit in Alabama.

Jason P. Amala, a Seattle attorney who jointly represents four of the five girls, believes the four lawsuits are the first civil claims to be filed against Ferrer, Larkin and Lacey.  In the lawsuits, the girls allege that Ferrer, Larkin, and Lacey are liable because they knew they were profiting from illegal sex trafficking. On Tuesday, the three men appeared in court in California in response to 39 criminal counts for allegedly facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.

Amala believes the lawsuits are the first cases to be filed since January 9, 2017, when the company purported to shut down the “escort” section of its website due to “censorship” by the United States government.  The “escort” section was shuttered within hours after the United States Senate issued a scathing report about the company’s alleged role in online sex trafficking.

The next day, Ferrer, Larkin, and Lacey appeared before a panel of U.S. Senators and refused to answer any questions.  Instead, each invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  The men were joined by the website’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Padilla, and corporate counsel, Elizabeth McDougal, who also refused to testify and invoked the Fifth Amendment.

The defendants named in the lawsuits include a number of U.S. and foreign companies that were allegedly involved in running the website or were used to conceal its profits.  Some of the lawsuits allege the companies are liable because they profited from the website “even though [they] knew those profits were derived from illegal conduct.”

In response to prior lawsuits, the website has asserted it is immune from suit under a federal law known as the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”).  The CDA provides websites immunity from suit for content posted by third parties so long as the website does not help create or develop the content.  Websites also have immunity if they edit content, but only if the content is edited in good faith.

According to Amala, the four lawsuits are being filed now because of the Senate report:  “For years the website has publicly claimed they were trying to remove sex ads.  That was the company line, but the Senate report shows that was not true.  The report details how the website, at the direction of its top executives, was systematically editing sex ads to make it less obvious that they were for sex.  They then posted the sanitized sex ad for a fee and kept the profits.”

Some of the complaints cite internal company emails that the plaintiffs claim support their allegations.  In one, Ferrer said it would be “too harsh” to ban advertisements that contained words or images that indicated the ad was for sex.  Instead, Ferrer said it was “[b]etter to edit by removing bad text or removing bad language” so that users could “adjust.”

The complaints also quote from deposition testimony that Amala obtained from a former employee of backpage.com.  In his deposition, the former employee agreed that his job was “to basically sanitize ads for prostitution.”  The complaints allege that the employee “would then post the sanitized ad, even though he knew the ad was a person who was trying to sell sex for money.”

The plaintiffs allege they were advertised on the website at various times between 2013 and late 2015.  According to the Senate report, www.backpage.com generated $135 million in revenue in 2014, and the vast majority of that revenue was from sex ads.

Washington:  The Washington lawsuit was filed on behalf of two teenage girls who are identified as R.O. and K.M.  R.O. alleges she was 14 to 15 years old, and K.M. alleges she was 16 years old, when they were sold for sex on the website.  Each girls alleges she was sold for sex in the greater Seattle area.  R.O. alleges her ads appeared on the website from October 2014 until December 2015.  K.M. alleges her ads appeared in early 2015.  Both girls allege they were repeatedly sexually abused as a result of being advertised for sex on the website.

California:  The California lawsuit was filed on behalf of a teenage girl who the complaint identifies as “Jane Doe.”  Jane Doe alleges she was 15 years old when she was sold for sex on the website.  Jane Doe alleges she was sold for sex in Riverside County, California.  Jane Doe alleges her ads appeared on the website for weeks in August 2015.  Jane Doe alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused as a result of being advertised for sex on the website.

Texas:  The Texas lawsuit was filed on behalf of a teenage girl who identified as “J.M.”  In her complaint, J.M. alleges she was 15 to 16 years old when she was sold for sex on the website.  J.M. alleges she was sold for sex in Hawaii, but filed suit in Texas because Dallas, Texas, was the principal place of business for the website during the time she was abused.  In October 2016, authorities raided the Dallas offices of the website after its CEO, Carl Ferrer, was arrested.  J.M. alleges her ads appeared on the website from March 2015 through September 2015.  J.M. alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused as a result of being advertised for sex on the website.

Alabama:  The Alabama lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman identified as “K.R.”  In her complaint, K.R. alleges she was 17 years old when she was sold for sex on the website.  K.R. alleges she was sold for sex in Houston County, Alabama.  K.R. alleges her ads appeared on the website between May 2013 and August 2013.  K.R. alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused as a result of being advertised on the website.

The four lawsuits are not the first lawsuits to be filed against the website.  In 2012, Amala and his law firm, in conjunction with Tacoma lawyer Erik Bauer, filed a separate lawsuit in Washington on behalf of three minor girls who allege they were sold for sex on the website in 2010.  The website moved to dismiss the case, citing the CDA, but the trial court denied the motion.  In October 2015, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision and concluded the plaintiffs should be allowed to move forward with their case so they could try to prove their allegations that the website was actively involved in editing their ads.  That case is currently scheduled to begin trial in Pierce County, Washington, in May 2017.

Amala believes these are important test cases regarding the CDA:  “I am proud of our clients for standing up for themselves and for thousands of other women and children who were trafficked for sex through this website.  The website has gone to great lengths to conceal its involvement in sex trafficking, but the truth is finally coming out.  Congress did not intend to give immunity to a website that created an online marketplace for sex trafficking, let alone a website that actively sanitized sex ads under the cover of trying to prevent sex trafficking.”

September 23, 2016

Guam Sexual Abuse Victims – Important Law Change

On September 23, 2016, the Governor of Guam courageously signed a bill ending the civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.  For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, this means they may be able to seek justice against abusers and organizations that allowed abuse to occur.  Leading up to the bill’s passage, reports of sexual abuse have been mounting against the Catholic Archbishop of Guam, Anthony Sablan Apuron, who has been accused of molesting at least five altar boys in the 1960s and 1970s.  Accusations of sexual abuse have been also been reported in recent years against other Catholic priests that served in Guam, including Fr. Louis Brouillard, Fr. Andrew Mannetta, Fr. Randy Nowak, and Fr. John Wadeson.

Sexual Abuse Victims’ Rights

Victims of child sexual abuse, even if it happened decades ago, may have the right to bring a lawsuit against perpetrators and institutions that allowed abuse to happen.  Even if your abuser is no longer alive, you may still be able to sue the institution for its part in enabling the abuser’s access to children.  We have represented dozens of men and women who were abused by Catholic priests, Boy Scout leaders, foster parents, family members, and other trusted figures.  Time and time again, we have seen that instead of taking action against accused abusers, institutions turned a blind eye or simply moved the abuser to a new location, where the cycle of abuse continued.

Sexual Abuse Attorneys

If you or a loved one was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, the new law change means you may be able to bring a lawsuit and obtain justice.

Notice: Our attorneys are not licensed to practice in Guam, but we often associate with attorneys in other jurisdictions to help represent survivors of child abuse.  In so doing, we have represented survivors of sexual abuse all across the United States.

March 24, 2016

Seattle Archdiocese Settles Eight Sexual Abuse Cases for $9,150,000

(Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Seattle) — The Seattle Archdiocese has paid $9,150,000 to settle the claims of eight women who were sexually abused as young girls by parish priest Father Michael Cody. Documentary evidence demonstrates that the Archdiocese knew that Cody was a pedophile and that he was a danger to young people well before the abuse of these women occurred.

Cody sexually abused six of the women while he was assigned to St. Charles Parish in Burlington, Washington from 1968 to 1972, and the other two while he was assigned to Assumption Parish in Bellingham, Washington from 1972 to 1975.

During a trial last year of Jeri Hubbard, who was abused by Cody in Skagit County in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Seattle Archdiocese admitted it acted in an outrageous manner and caused Hubbard serious injuries. In 1962 the then Seattle archbishop had received a letter from a psychiatrist stating that Cody had sexually abused young girls and diagnosing him as a pedophile. Subsequent letters from other priests repeatedly warned the archbishop of Cody’s dangerous propensities. The archbishop then transferred Cody from King to Skagit County where he abused Hubbard. The Archdiocese settled with Hubbard for 1.2 million dollars the day before the jury was scheduled to begin deliberations.

The same legal team that represented Jeri Hubbard also represented the eight women whose cases were just resolved for $9,150,000 – John Murphy of Mt Vernon, Mike Pfau of Seattle and Rand Jack of Bellingham.

Attorney John Murphy, commented: “By bringing these lawsuits, these brave women have helped focus attention on the betrayal by the Archdiocese, as well as by priests. We have barely begun to understand the depth and breadth of the psychological injuries they have suffered and continue to suffer. Hopefully, the resolution of these lawsuits will be part of the healing process.”

Rand Jack of Bellingham added: “I feel privileged to have helped represent these women and to have experienced their courage and determination. They have stood up for themselves and other victims of sexual abuse. Money damages can never compensate them for the harm caused by their parish priest and the betrayal of a powerful institution they revered.”

Seattle attorney Michael T. Pfau, suspects the Archdiocese settled because it does not want the public to hear the full evidence that exists regarding Cody and because the evidence implicating the former Archbishop was so damning. Pfau says: “The evidence regarding Father Cody is overwhelming, and I don’t think the Archdiocese wants more bad publicity. The direct involvement of former Archbishop Thomas Connelly in placing this pedophile in parishes with full knowledge of his danger to children is truly disturbing.”

Pfau also states: “The 1962 record describing Cody’s diagnosis as a pedophile may be one of the earliest remaining record regarding a priest in the Seattle Archdiocese posing a danger to children, at least that I’ve seen in representing abuse survivors.”

Father Cody had previously served at St. Luke Parish in Seattle, Holy Family Parish in Seattle, St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Holy Family Parish in Auburn, and Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner. He was then transferred to St. Charles Parish in Burlington and Assumption Parish in Bellingham, followed by St. Margaret Parish in Seattle.

The plaintiffs are jointly represented by Michael Pfau of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC in Seattle, Washington, John W. Murphy of Mt. Vernon, Washington, and Rand F. Jack of Bellingham, Washington.

In the news

Washington Post (Mar. 24, 2016) – ‘Father Cody is dangerous’: Seattle Archdiocese settles sex abuse case for $9.1 million after damning letters surface

KOMO News (Mar. 23, 2016) – Seattle Archdiocese settles 8 abuse cases for $9 million

Seattle Times (Mar. 23, 2016) – 8 women settle with Seattle Archdiocese for $9.1 million in priest sex-abuse cases

February 3, 2015

Abuse Survivor Settles with DSHS for $2,500,000

Our client, M.M., recently settled her case against DSHS for $2,500,000.  Her case arose from sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster parent, Lester Drappeaux, who DSHS licensed to be a foster parent despite the fact that he was a convicted sex offender.

In December 1971, Lester Drappeaux was working as a janitor for the Snohomish School District when he was terminated over allegations that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor student.  The local prosecutor brought charges against Drappeaux, who pled guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

From 1972 to 1974, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”) oversaw Drappeaux’s probation for the sex crime conviction.   However, just four years later, DSHS granted Drappeaux a license to be a foster parent, despite a Washington law that disqualified sex offenders from becoming a foster parent.

PCVA attorney Jason P. Amala, who has brought a number of cases against the State of Washington on behalf of abuse survivors, says the mistake occurred at a time DSHS was being warned that its system was broken:  “Lester Drappeaux was licensed just two years after the state auditor publicly warned DSHS that its system was broken, and that sex offenders like Drappeaux were in the foster care program and abusing children.  We saw no evidence DSHS did anything meaningful in response to those warnings.”

The State of Washington took custody of M.M. in 1979, when she was about five years old.  That same year, DSHS placed M.M. in the Drappeaux foster home for the first time.  She was placed in and out of the home a number of times until 1986, when she was permanently placed in the home until she graduated from high school in 1992.

In deposition and court records, M.M. testified the abuse began when she was first placed in the home and escalated over time, eventually happening once or twice a week.  Drappeaux threatened to kill her and the other foster children in the home if she told anyone what he was doing to her.  M.M. thought she was protecting other children, but records filed with the court show that Drappeaux abused a number of other foster children who were placed in his care.

M.M.’s lawsuit was not based solely on DSHS licensing a convicted sex offender.  According to Amala, DSHS made an egregious mistake in February 1992 when it received a report that Drappeaux’s step-daughter alleged he had sexually abused her, and that she was concerned for the foster children in his home because he had spent time in jail for having sex with a minor.  But M.M. provided the court with records that suggest DSHS’s investigator closed her investigation when the step-daughter did not return her phone calls.  According to Amala, the lack of action fell far below the standard of care:  “Nothing else was done.  They could have walked a few blocks to the courthouse and pulled his criminal file.  Or they could have at least confronted him or his wife.  Instead, they made a few phone calls and closed their file.  Even their own expert witness testified this was a massive breach of the standard of care.  One of their witnesses testified she was ‘shocked’ at what was done, but she was one of the people that was supposed to have done something.”

Drappeaux kept his license for three more years, until 1995, when DSHS received another report regarding him.  Initially, investigators were prepared to close the investigation, but a supervisor ordered them to continue.  A subsequent FBI check revealed Drappeux had a long criminal history, including the conviction for indecent liberties with a minor.  When pressed to take a lie detector test, Mr. Drappeux turned in his foster license.

Amala says the evidence suggests DSHS and its workers were simply too fond of the Drappeaux foster home and lost their objectivity, particularly as it was one of the few foster homes for Native American children.  “Perhaps the most remarkable fact we discovered is that DSHS awarded Mr. Drappeaux the “Foster Parent of the Year” award in 1995, at the same time that it was conducting a second investigation into allegations that he abused children.”

October 17, 2014

WA Supreme Court to Rule on Backpage’s Claim of Immunity

Backpage.com is generally considered the largest source of sex trafficking in the United States.  We represent a number of girls who allege the company is liable for creating an online marketplace for sex trafficking and then helping traffickers post ads for sex and evade law enforcement.

For its part, Backpage.com asserts that it is immune from liability because of the Communications Decency Act.  Under that federal law, a website is only liable for content if it “is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet …”

We filed suit in Pierce County Superior Court.  The trial court denied a motion by Backpage.com to dismiss the case under the Communications Decency Act, but certified the question for appeal.

The Washington Supreme Court accepted review of the trial court’s decision.  Oral argument is set for October 21, 2014, and will be televised on TVW.  The following links include copies of the briefs filed by the parties, as well as “friend of the court” briefs that were filed by a number of advocacy groups.

Read the briefs filed with the court below

June 25, 2014

Seattle Archdiocese to Pay $12.125 Million to 30 Abuse Survivors

The Seattle Archdiocese has agreed to pay $12,125,000 to 30 men who allege it was responsible for sexual abuse they suffered as children at O’Dea High School, in Seattle, and Briscoe Memorial School, a former orphanage and boarding school in Kent, Washington.

The majority of claims were filed after two asset-holding corporations of the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, a Catholic religious order, filed for bankruptcy in April 2011.  The Christian Brothers operated O’Dea and Briscoe for decades, but both schools were owned by the Seattle Archdiocese.

In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the men alleged both the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers.  Approximately ten cases had been filed against the Archdiocese at the time of the Christian Brothers bankruptcy, but that number tripled after the bankruptcy court ordered that notice be given to potential abuse survivors in Seattle.

According to Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael T. Pfau, the settlement will put an end to an ugly chapter for the Archdiocese involving these two schools, and will help bring closure to both the Archdiocese and his clients:  “The Archdiocese, under the leadership of Archbishop Sartain, did the right thing and acknowledged the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that our clients, their families, and our community have endured.  This settlement is the first step in allowing all parties to focus on the future.  It also allows the Archdiocese to move beyond its partnership with the Christian Brothers, a relationship that led to the abuse of scores of children.”

In the past decade, Pfau and his law partner, Jason P. Amala, have settled more than 75 claims against the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese for over $35 million.

During the litigation, Pfau and Amala uncovered dozens of records that illustrate the abuse problem that has plagued the Catholic Church.  For example, 11 of the men claimed they were sexually abused by former O’Dea teacher Edward Courtney, who court records show had been removed from four schools for abusing children before he was transferred to O’Dea.  Just a few months after arriving in Seattle in September 1974, one of the men complained to his older brother that Courtney had sexually abused him.  The complaint prompted the man’s older brother to meet with a vice principal of O’Dea who assured him the situation would be handled.  However, Courtney was not removed from O’Dea until 1978, even though records show O’Dea officials had continued to receive reports that he was sexually abusing children.

Another 5 of the men claimed they were sexually abused at O’Dea by former teacher G.A. Kealy, who students openly referred to as “Feely Kealy.”  In a 1963 letter, the O’Dea principal, Matt Popish, asked for Kealy to be transferred from O’Dea because of “the complaints parents had made to Bishop Gill about him.”  Popish noted “the Bishop suggested to me that it would be better for all concerned if he were not to be around.”  Two of the men alleged they had told Popish about the abuse, but claimed nothing was done to protect them or other students.

About half of the plaintiffs alleged they were abused at Briscoe, including a number who attended the school in the final years before it was sold in 1969.  In court pleadings, Pfau and Amala cited a 1966 letter where one of the Christian Brothers at Briscoe described the deplorable conditions at the school:

“Parents are often taken to Court for the very same neglect and abuse for which the school and the American Province have been guilty.  This damaging atmosphere has existed not only during the past year but in varying degrees during all the years that I have known the school.  It is not only far worse now, but has reached immoral and unethical limits.  It is my feeling that the Congregation’s conscience is guilty of social injustice, immoral practices, and lack of charity as regards Briscoe School.”

The men will also receive settlement funds from the Christian Brothers bankruptcy proceeding.  According to Amala, the bankruptcy resulted in the near liquidation of the Christian Brothers in North America:  “The bankruptcy plan required the Christian Brothers to liquidate the vast majority of their cash, property, and other assets, and to distribute the proceeds to abuse survivors.  They were allowed to keep just enough to take care of their older members who did not abuse children.”

The bankruptcy plan also required the Christian Brothers to implement a number of policies and procedures that are designed to protect children from sexual abuse.  The policies and procedures, which were drafted by a committee of abuse survivors, were the starting point of settlement negotiations in the bankruptcy.  According to Pfau:  “Our clients wanted to make sure history does not repeat itself.  They insisted we protect future generations in addition to holding the Christian Brothers accountable for what they suffered.”

News Coverage

March 11, 2014

Woman Settles Child Abuse Case Against Washington State for $3,000,000

The State of Washington has agreed to pay $3,000,000 to a woman, identified only by her initials R.R., who alleges Child Protective Services failed to protect her after she gave birth when she was just 12 years old and entered state protective care.  R.R. alleges the same man, her mother’s boyfriend, impregnated her again within two months after she gave birth and continued to sexually and physically abuse her over the next decade while he held her captive and she raised his sons.  The settlement will allow the State to avoid a jury trial that was previously scheduled to begin today in Tacoma, Washington.

In January 1995, Washington State’s Child Protective Services was notified that R.R., a sixth grader at the time, had just given birth at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, Washington.  Given her age and lack of prenatal care, the hospital’s workers asked CPS to investigate.

Records and testimony obtained during the litigation show that CPS workers quickly identified her mother’s 35-year old boyfriend, Christopher Eugene Hamburg, as the likely father, and R.R.’s sixth grade teacher testified that she told CPS that Hamburg was likely the father.  R.R. alleged that CPS did nothing to protect her from Hamburg, but instead asserted that it could not intervene because the 12-year old R.R. had not personally reported the abuse.

Accused Child Abuser Christopher Eugene Hamburg

While the investigation was still pending, Hamburg moved R.R.’s family out of Spokane, and R.R. alleges CPS did nothing to try to find her or to warn law enforcement that Hamburg had the family on the run.

Ten months later, when the family was living in Boise, Idaho, R.R. alleges she gave birth to another child by Hamburg.  She was only 13 years old.

Over the next 15 years, R.R. alleges Hamburg continued to sexually abuse her while he moved her family between various locations in Washington, Utah, and Idaho.  In 2010, when she was 27 years old, Hamburg allowed her to use the internet for the first time, and she made friends in a chat room.  One of those friends, R.R. says, helped her realize the gravity of the crimes that Hamburg had committed.  She left him shortly thereafter.

R.R.’s attorney, Michael T. Pfau, who has brought a number of cases against the State of Washington on behalf of abuse survivors, finds this one of the most disturbing cases he has handled: “In 1995, the state claimed they couldn’t do more because R.R. did not personally report the abuse, despite an abundance of evidence that she was a child in danger.  Fast forward twenty years, and the State was still suggesting CPS is not responsible because R.R. did not disclose the abuse.  But that’s why CPS exists:  to protect children from abuse, not to blame them for it.”

The alleged perpetrator, Christopher Eugene Hamburg, is still on the loose, and could face criminal charges.  The legislature in Idaho, where R.R. claims Hamburg abused her for many years, previously abolished its statute of limitations for child rape.  It is unclear whether news of the settlement will cause police and prosecutors in that state to re-visit whether they can charge Hamburg with child rape, particularly with the availability of paternity and DNA testing.

Child Abuse Statute of Limitations

It is also unclear whether similar legislation will be introduced in the Washington legislature to abolish the statute of limitations for child abuse, but according to Pfau, this case demonstrates the need to do so:  “Washington is a leading state when it comes to civil liability for those who abuse children and for those who fail to protect children.  Our children are undoubtedly safer because of it, but reforming Washington’s criminal statute of limitations is the next step.”

News Coverage

January 21, 2014

Secret files on 30 Alleged Child Abusers in the Chicago Archdiocese Released

The Chicago Archdiocese has released its files on 30 priests who are alleged to have sexually abused minors, primarily in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  The names of the alleged priests include Fr. Norbert Maday, Fr. Kenneth Brigham, Fr. William O’Brien, Fr. Robert Mayer, Fr. Henry Swider, Fr. John Curran, Fr. Raymond Skriba, Fr. William Cloutier, Fr. James Hagan, Fr. Joseph Fitzharris, Fr. Thomas Job, Fr. Robert Becker, Fr. Marion Snieg, Fr. Daniel Holihan, Fr. Daniel McCormack, and there are more.

January 15, 2014

Olympia School District to Pay $1.2M to Child Sex Abuse Victim

The Olympia School District’s insurer has tentatively agreed to pay $1.2 million to a former Garfield Elementary School kindergartener who was molested by Gary Shafer, a former Olympia school bus driver, in 2010.

In 2011, a Thurston County Superior Court judge sentenced former Olympia school bus driver Gary Schafer, now 35, to 14 1/2 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting three girls on Olympia school buses, including the then-5-year-old girl whose civil case was settled on Tuesday.

Shafer’s two other minor victims also have won cash awards as a result of their civil lawsuits. In September 2013, the school district’s insurer agreed to pay a then 6-year-old victim $750,000 to settle her lawsuit.

And, in late September 2012, a jury ordered the Olympia school district to pay a third victim $1.4 million after it found the district was negligent and failed to properly supervise Shafer. The jury awarded the girl $1.4 million at the conclusion of a jury trial.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/01/14/2930708/olympia-school-district-to-pay.html

If you or your child are a victim of child sex abuse, please contact PCVA today and learn your options.  All consultations are free and confidential.

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