On February 10th 2013, Candace Conti and her lawyer Rick Simons met at offices in Oakland to answer questions about Candace’s landmark case.
The questions had been collected from jehovahs-witness.net, an online forum where many posters were following the lawsuit and wanted to know the ins and outs. In giving their answers, Candace and Rick offered a revealing insight into the challenges posed by confronting Watchtower over its child abuse policies, and showed how committed they are to improving the safety of countless Witness children.
The first two videos of the interview were uploaded to YouTube in March, and have so far received hundreds of views each. Now the final two videos have been uploaded to complete the series. By way of celebrating, I felt it would be a good idea if I published a full transcript of all four videos as a reference for anyone following the case.
Here follows a list of questions answered on the first three videos. The fourth and final video contains concluding comments from Candace and Rick.
To go straight to the answer, simply click on the question.
Part 1 questions
- Is there a possibility that part of the ruling, if you overcome the appeal, will be that the Society must make an announcement outlining the details of the case to its members, as well as an apology to Candace?
- Why did you not take this to court sooner?
- Has Watchtower tried to make any kind of settlement offers, either before or during the appeals process?
- Is the larger American legal community beyond Team Conti paying closer-than-usual attention to the way this case is playing out?
- Have you heard of any others who will be taking the same legal action against the Society that you took?
- How would you describe the contact and communication between your legal team and the Society’s lawyers?
- Please could you clarify how the appeal bond works. Does the Society have to pay the full $17 million now, or just the premium? If their appeal fails, do they have to pay the insurance company the $17 million in addition to the premium payments?
- What principles or personal motives, biblical or otherwise, led you to pursue the case to the end without wanting to settle out of court?
Part 2 questions
- Why was the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania, together with more Watchtower corporations, not sued as well?
- Are the Watchtower’s legal team Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves, and are they paid to represent their client?
- What are the next key stages in this appeal process, and how long will it likely take?
- Are you satisfied with the outcome of the case so far?
- Is the appeal effectively a complete retrial, or is it left to the Society to identify elements of the main trial which may have violated applicable laws?
- If Candace’s abuse occurred after California became a mandatory reporting state, how does this impact on the Watchtower’s defence?
- RUMOR/ACCUSATION: Candace Conti has been convicted of taking and selling drugs, and for being in possession of stolen goods. She also worked as a prostitute when she was a teenager.
- Do you plan on continuing your efforts towards protecting the children of the Watch Tower Society?
Part 3 questions
- How would you advise active Jehovah’s Witnesses to keep their children safe in an organization that has been found by a court of law to be lacking in adequate childcare mechanisms?
- How was Watchtower found legally responsible for the abuse of Candace if Kendrick has not yet received a criminal conviction for it?
- Have you been able to get professional help following your ordeal?
- Why did you object to Patterson being used as surety for the bond? Was it to cause the Society to lose money on the premium payments?
- What does it feel like to be suing the Watchtower when you once thought it represented the true religion?
- In determining the financial liquidity of the Watch Tower Society, why can’t the court demand to see proof of their financial standing?
- Have you been able to find peace from what happened in the past?
- Will you be taking on any more cases against the Watch Tower Society?
Part 1 – video and answers
Asked by: exwhyzee
Rick: The answer to that is no. Our civil court system is set up to award money damages. This case does not involve an injunction, it involves past harm to Candace. Therefore, that kind of relief is not available to us through this system. What we told the jury and what we see, not just in these cases, but in other kinds of cases all across civil justice, is that the attention that’s brought to the situation from the kind of case that Candace has brought and her courage in publicizing what happened to her and the jury statement on the policies that caused Candace her injury, that is the incentive through a financial award for change.
Asked by: toweragent
Candace: I never intended to go to court in the first place. That was the farthest thing that I ever wanted. I never wanted any monetary value out of this at all. What I had wanted was for the organization to listen and to be open to ideas and advice, or ideas that would help protect children in the future. After not being listened to and kind of being turned away and shunned for those ideas, I didn’t know where else to turn. They had asked me specifically to prove that it happened to me before they would listen to me. So I think that that process is what made it take so long for me to take action.
Rick: And I’d like to comment on that because I don’t agree at all that it took so long. And in fact most child sex abuse victims, at least many, many, do not have either the emotional or the psychological state of mind that allows them to come forward and actually get involved in something like the litigation process until well into their thirties and often even to their forties. The law in California, even though we’re seeking to change it, allows people to their 26th birthday to bring a child sex abuse case. Candace was well within that, so I don’t agree with the statement that it was a long wait. I think it was actually, in the great curve, somewhat early.
Asked by: Idrnomo, Balaamsass and mind blown
Rick: The answer to that is no. But the main reason that there have been no settlement discussions is that when Candace first came to me at the beginning of this journey, it was clear that she wanted attention drawn to the policies that have allowed child sex abusers to remain protected within the Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It wasn’t about money. She had gone to them in Los Angeles, she had gone to them in Fremont and said ‘you’ve got to change the policies.’ They documented her question which is: ‘when molesters who have been identified are in the congregation and are kept secret what’s to prevent them from hiding who they really are?’ and that they wrote down for us. That was her goal to change that policy when she came to me and until the policy is changed, one way or the other, there’s not really much point in talking settlement.
Asked by: Vidiot
Rick: Judging by the amount of publicity that has been generated within the legal community I think there is a higher level of recognition about Candace’s case than many other cases. On the other hand, I don’t think that the first case of Jehovah’s Witnesses has reached the level of attention nationally that the thousands of cases against the Roman Catholic Church have reached. I think that we’re still in the process of spreading the light, if you will, that has been shining primarily on the Catholic church around to the many, many other institutions including Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Asked by: Christ Alone
Rick: I know a lot of people have made inquiries and several lawyers have contacted me with regard to questions, but because of all of the legal obstacles, it varies from state to state but every state has some legal obstacles to these kinds of cases, I have not heard of any that have actually been filed and prosecuted.
Asked by: Hoffnung
Rick: Most of the time the relationships between the lawyers were very professional, very gracious, very civil, very polite. Occasionally there would be a little show of some sort of temper or irritation on the part of one or the other of us over something that may not have been communicated properly to us or to the other side. But, by and large, I would say that the lawyers were very professional in their treatment of each other. One of the biggest mistakes I think that the defense team made was they didn’t extend to Candace Conti, the true victim in this case, the same respect that they paid to her lawyer.
Asked by: AnnOMaly
Rick: This question of securing a judgment during the time that it’s on appeal is the same whether it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dow Chemical or any other party who is appealing an adverse judgment. The law allows them to secure the judgment in one of two ways: either they put cash or cash equivalent in an account under the supervision of the court, or they can get an insurance company, in this case it’s Traveler’s, and pay a premium and get a bond, like a bail bond, that guarantees the payment. If at the end of the appeals process the judgment is not paid within 30 days, the party who has won the judgment and won the appeal has the right to bring a claim directly against the insurance company. And the insurance company can then go chase their annuity payer or their premium payer for the balance, but the main purpose of the law is to protect the plaintiff, the claimant, the person who has obtained the judgment; make sure they get promptly paid at the end of the case and let the other folks sort it out amongst themselves. As of this time, all Jehovah’s Witnesses, all Watchtower has to do is pay a premium for the bond.
Asked by: belbab
Rick: What really compelled me to not think about settling was the fact that so many other children are at risk when you have policies that hide these people. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, that needs to change, and I felt in my little own way that I could take a stand and come forward with what had happened to me, and if I could possibly in any way make a difference to change those things that it would really be worth it in the end, and I think that’s really been my motivation throughout the whole thing.
Part 2 – video and answers
Asked by: Hoffnung
Rick: The Watchtower Corporation of Pennsylvania was sued in the original complaint. However, when we recognized that the actual instruction and supervision and policies that put Candace and many other kids at risk were coming out of New York, which was at that time where the Service Department was run and the Legal Department was run, then there was no legal basis to pursue Pennsylvania. It was New York that was setting the policies through the Governing Body. It was New York that was implementing the policies through the Service Department and the Legal Department, so Pennsylvania did not have any legal responsibility as a Corporation. All of this, of course, goes back to the Governing Body. They’re the Managing Agents of each of the Corporations that they act through.
Asked by: DATA-DOG
Rick: The paid part I don’t know. I’m not privy to the financial arrangements. The attorney for the congregation, Mr. McCabe, I know is a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The other attorney told the jury and myself as well that he is not, Mr Schnack, and the attorney that they have on appeal, Mr. Williams, I don’t know.
Asked by: Splash and exwhyzee
Rick: The next step is that the Watchtower and the local congregation will file their opening brief in the appeal and that is due the second week of March as we sit here now. We will then file an opposition brief somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 days after that. They will file a closing brief presumably 30 to 45 days after our brief. So, now we’re into May, June timeframe. Then the Court of Appeal will set the case for oral argument. The schedule is hard to predict on when an oral argument will be held. It would not be unusual for that to be several months from the filing of the last brief and after the oral argument is concluded, then the Court has 90 days to issue its opinion. The opinion is subject to motions for reconsideration by any of the sides, either of the sides, and the parties have the right to petition to the California Supreme Court and to the US Supreme Court for hearing, but that is not a right to be heard. That is a petition and if the California Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court finds an issue that enough of their members feel is of what we call precedential value, in other words, important enough issue in terms of the overall development of the law, then they can take on the case. But if they don’t feel that there is any new issues here or any issues that are big enough to affect the general direction of the law, then they can deny a hearing and the Court of Appeal opinion will become final. So we’re still in for several months and possibly a couple of years worth of Appellate review.
Asked by: truthseekeriam
Candace: I am overwhelmed with the outcome of the case. I was never expecting this type of response. I wish and I pray that more good can come of it on many different levels; that being more people coming forward and starting cases. The primary goal would be to have policy change. That’s always the primary goal first and foremost and I think that when that day happens I will feel like we’ve all succeeded.
Asked by: Hoffnung
Rick: The appeal in any case is based upon the evidence presented at the trial. The trial is over. The evidence has been presented. Now the Court of Appeal, and if it goes farther, other reviewing Courts, will be limited to looking at that evidence and the judge’s rulings to determine whether there was any legal error in the trial. But the facts have been found. The jury’s finding of the facts is not subject to being disturbed or overturned as a finding by the Court of Appeal or any other reviewing Court. The power of the jury to find the facts has been exercised.
Asked by: DATA-DOG
Rick: Reporting, mandatory or otherwise, is something that happens after abuse occurs. Our case is about protection to prevent abuse from occurring. We don’t believe that the enforcement of mandatory reporting laws protects the kids who have already been molested. That’s the problem here is that it’s shutting the barn door after the horse is out. It’s not a case about reporting. There’s not damages for reporting included in this case. Whether it was mandatory reporting or not wouldn’t matter
Candace: In answer to those accusations, I take full responsibility for my own actions. I, along with a lot of other people in life, have made many poor choices. As far as that last accusation, that is the furthest thing from the truth. As a teenager, I graduated High School with great grades. I was in a relationship for eight years with the same person, that started in High School. All of that being said, none of these accusations, none of the truth of my own poor choices will ever take away what happened to me as a child. And more importantly, it will never take away from the truth that the Organization’s own policies still do not protect children and that is the biggest point. No matter what speculations, no matter what rumors come up, that will never change.
Rick: Every single expert, and there were at least a half a dozen; psychologists, counselors, therapists, who testified in the trial agreed that the abuse that Candace suffered as a child is what drove her to take drugs. Self-medication is one of the most common refuges that abuse victims take. It is statistically overwhelming numbers of correlation between childhood sexual abuse and turning to substances. During the trial, and the discovery phase leading up to the trial, every single corner of Candace’s life was examined and every piece of dirt that the Jehovah’s Witnesses lawyers could find on her was turned up. None of that included the remotest claim that she ever engaged in any kinds of activity including prostitution, as the question says, or anything else other than what we know from the drug related conduct that she engaged in as part of her self-medication. So those kinds of attacks on her are where people who don’t want to deal with the truth and that’s that child sex abuse is rampant in Jehovah’s Witnesses, that the policies of secrecy add to that frequency of children being molested, and that these kids are innocent victims of an Organization that should know better and is hiding the truth. That’s what this case is about. That’s what Candace is about. And all these other kinds of attacks really show how low the people are who defend those policies and those perpetrators of abuse, and the leadership of the church that continues to tolerate them.
Asked by: truthseekeriam
Candace: Fully, a hundred percent. I think that whatever we can do in our power to continue to get the word out and continue to put pressure on organizations all over the world to change policies to protect children is a worthwhile cause.
Part 3 – video and answers
Asked by: besty
Candace: I personally never intended to attack the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion. We live in America and everyone has their freedom to religion, and I am a firm believer in that. With that being said I feel that the important thing for the parents that are current Jehovah’s Witnesses and current members [is] to know that they have the power within themselves as parents to confront the elders and to ask: ‘Is there a pedophile in our midst?’ They have the right to know that. And so I would encourage the parents of the kingdom halls around the world to confront the elders. They say that you don’t have the right to know if there’s a pedophile in your midst, that ‘we will decide if that information is worthy of telling you.’ You as parents have that right to know if your child is in danger.
Asked by: Cedars and LisaRose
Rick: There are many many many cases where the perpetrator is either dead, flown the jurisdiction, or for whatever reason, including delayed reporting of the abuse, which is common in child sex abuse cases, is not prosecuted. There is no direct requirement that there be a criminal conviction in order to prosecute a third party or a perpetrator for civil child sexual abuse. And we might ask the same question about OJ. How was it that OJ Simpson was required to pay damages to the family of the two people he killed when he wasn’t criminally convicted? And the answer is because the civil courts operate under a different standard.
Asked by: Pterist
Candace: I’m able to stay in contact with a therapist that I’ve had for a while. I think that my biggest therapy is being able to move on with life; going to school and to be able to fulfil my dreams and my goals.
Asked by: notjustyet
Rick: No, the purpose of the bond is to make it easy for the plaintiff or the person who’s got the judgment to collect on the judgment when the appeals process is over, and to collect on it promptly. Going from California to New York, getting an order there to sell real estate, finding a buyer takes months and possibly years. It’s involved procedure. The reason that the law is set up so that judgment debtors like the Watchtower have to either put up a bond or put up cash to the court is so that the plaintiff at the end of the day, when the appeals are all exhausted, can get paid within 30 days.
Asked by: exwhyzee
Candace: I think I can kind of go back to what I had said earlier. i am not suing Jehovah’s Witnesses as a faith. I’m a firm believer that everyone has a right to believe in what they want to believe in. It’s part of being an American. What I would say I’m suing the organization for is their lack of having adequate policies to protect children in the event that these things happen. And they do happen.
Asked by: Pterist
Rick: The court issued an order requiring and compelling Watchtower to bring financial reports to the court. However, at the time period between the Wednesday compensatory challenge verdict, in other words the part of the verdict that was damages awarded to Candace, and the part of the trial the next day on punitive damages to punish Watchtower for its conscious disregard of safety of children, we reached an agreement, the lawyers did, that we would just give the jury a stipulation that they had thirty million dollars cash in the bank and real estate worth over a billion. After that it really didn’t matter to me about whether it was a billion six or four billion or eight billion or ten billion or whether it was all real estate or whatever. The number is so astoundingly large in comparison to what our request was for 21 million in punitive damages that it was no longer an important piece of evidence in our case.
Asked by: Lozhasleft
Candace: I don’t think in any child molestation victim, it doesn’t matter how much time has gone by, that pain and those feelings will never ever go away. We still live with those, I still live with those on a daily basis. I find peace in knowing that I had set out to accomplish a goal, and so far in God’s grace through an amazing team effort we have been able to start that process. The peace that I have personally would be going for my dreams and goals, going to school, becoming a veterinary technician, working with animals. Those are the things that bring me personal peace.
Asked by: OUTLAW
Rick: If there was a case that came to me that me that met the legal requirements of California law and that we could successfully prosecute, we felt, then yes we would certainly be interested in prosecuting it because I don’t think that Watchtower has learned all of the lessons yet that they need to learn about changing their policies and procedures to be more protective of children.
Part 4 – video and final comments
One of the things we see in jury selection in these cases is how widespread child sex abuse is in our society. It has been swept under the rug, it has been hidden from public view institutionally and in all the shameful ways that child abuse occurs, particularly child sexual abuse, for many many decades, centuries.
In jury selection we see often as many as 20 to 25 percent of the prospective jurors either were abused as children or someone very close to them was abused as a child. It is a problem because of the secrecy that surrounds it.
One of the exhibits at the trial was the Awake magazine article that talked about how secrecy is the friend of the perpetrator; secrecy gives rise to more victims. That’s what the essence of the policy of the Governing Body was through the 1989 Body of Elders letter.
It’s secrecy about child sexual abusers, that’s what has to change not just in Jehovah’s Witnesses, not just in religious institutions, but in every institution in the country.
And each and every institution, whether it be a Penn State, whether it be a religious institution, whether it be a US swimming, boy scouts, all of these institutions where our children are active and participate and where families believe that the people with them are good people who can be trusted, all these institutions need to double, triple, quadruple their efforts to protect the kids.
There is nothing more important than the protection of our children. There is nothing more important institutionally than making those who have the power in our large institutions, power to shape and control people’s lives, responsible when they fail, and to make sure that where those failures have been documented and pointed out as Candace Conti did to Jehovah’s Witnesses in this case, that changes are made.
This case is partly about a victim from our past, Candace Conti, but it’s also about making sure we protect kids in the future so that there are no more Candace Contis, there are no more hidden molesters in the congregation, and kids can be safe; grow up to have healthy lives without the scars of child abuse.
Everything that Rick just said and more! I think that through this case I can only hope that people see the policies and procedures of these organizations are flawed, and that we can take the initiative as members of these organizations to ask our elders, to ask our superiors, that we as a unit want better protection for our children. That has always been the goal behind this and I just hope and pray that we make a difference every day for children of the future.
As a final word, I would just like to thank the following individuals for their participation and involvement in this video series.
- Candace Conti and Rick Simons, for answering the questions thoroughly and candidly even though (in Candace’s case) it proved emotionally challenging at times.
- John Hoyle, for filming the interview and acting as a prompter for the questions.
- Kathleen Conti, for also filming the interview.
- Jane Robertson, for narrating the questions and recording them with the help of her husband Angus.
- “Rip Van Winkle” for assisting me with transcribing the videos.
- All forum posters from jehovahs-witness.net mentioned above who contributed questions and thus helped make this interview possible.
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- “We will decide who is a predator!” – New Watchtower Instructions to Elders on Child Abuse
- “You can’t use Patterson!” – Court denies Watchtower’s bond motion
- Why Watchtower shut down JWsurvey.org for over 24 hours