Jehovah’s Witnesses Face Sanctions for Withholding Documents in Sex Abuse Case

Jehovah'sA San Diego Superior Court judge ordered the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, also known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, to pay $4,000 a day in fines as long as it refuses to produce documents in a sexual abuse case brought by former church member Osbaldo Padron.

Padron’s lawyers had asked Judge Richard Strauss to imposed fines against the Church as sanctions for failing to comply with an earlier order requiring the Church to produce the documents. “Watchtower has shown no effort or willingness to comply with the discovery order,” Judge Strauss wrote. The Judge’s Order continues:

Based upon the history in this case and Watchtower’s statements…the court finds that Watchtower’s failure to comply is willful…Watchtower clearly has control over the documents it has already produced and could revise the redactions with regard to those documents. This is obviously and clearly within the scope of Watchtower’s powers which it chooses not to exercise. Continuing to repeat its prior unsuccessful arguments in opposition to the discovery order further illustrates Watchtower’s obstinacy in compliance.

In 2014, a court awarded another sex abuse victim, Jose Lopez, $13.5 million in damages against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in San Diego Superior Court.  Lopez contended that the Church knew that longtime church member Gonzalo Campos molested children and covered up the danger. The court agreed and sided with Lopez.

Gonzalo Campos is the alleged perpetrator in Padron’s lawsuit as well. Padron filed his lawsuit in 2013, alleging that the Church knew as early as 1982 that Campos abused children. In 1982, the lawsuit claims, a 12-year-old boy accused the then-18-year-old Campos of trying to have sex with him. The Church did nothing to stop Campos from molesting children and, instead the Playa Pacific Spanish Congregation in Linda Vista gave Campos more of a leadership role in the congregation.

From 1987 to 1994, numerous children and parents accused Campos of child sexual abuse. In 1994, a parent of one of Campos’ alleged victims wrote a letter to the congregation and Church headquarters requesting an investigation, but to no effect. According to his 2013 complaint, Campos molested Padron on numerous occasions from 1994 to 1995.

Padron’s lawsuit is now deep in the “discovery” phase, during which parties exchange documents needed to build their cases and prepare for trial. As an experienced sexual abuse attorney, I know that a church’s own documents are vital to understand the nature and extent of sexual abuse in the organization and church’s role in any cover up.

The fact that the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses has absolutely refused to produce its documents, despite a court order to do so, and now in the face of daily, steep financial fines, shows how desperate the Church is to hide whatever those documents show about the Church’s history of child sex abuse.

 

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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