Watchtower appears in court to give oral arguments in appeal against Candace Conti verdict
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Candace Conti speaking at a news conference in 2013

Candace Conti speaking at a news conference in 2013

In June 2012 the online community of free-thinking current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses was rocked by the news of a multimillion dollar verdict against Watchtower in a case regarding the mishandling of child sex abuse.

News of the development spread quickly, with several newspapers in the United States, the UK and Canada providing coverage of the verdict.

The plaintiff Candace Conti, who has repeatedly insisted that she pursued the judgment without any consideration for accepting a lucrative settlement, was awarded $28 million in damages (later reduced on appeal to around $11 million).

It took six days following the verdict for Watchtower to issue a brief statement on its website (then “jwmedia.org”) by way of acknowledgment. The statement, which has since been pulled from the internet entirely in the wake of JW.org being launched, quoted Watchtower attorney James McCabe as saying: “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision. This is the first time that an organization was found responsible for the alleged misdeeds of a member who held no position of leadership or authority.”

Author Scott Terry, a friend of the Contis, was in court to hear Watchtower's oral argument

Author Scott Terry, a friend of the Contis, was in court to hear Watchtower’s oral argument

“We are very sorry for whatever harm this young lady may have suffered,” continued McCabe. “However, the organization is not responsible. We now look to the Court of Appeals for a thorough review of this case.”

It has taken more than two years of legal wrangling and procrastination (during which time Patterson was offered as surety by Watchtower in an attempt to defray its legal expenses), but Watchtower’s lawyers finally arrived at the Supreme Court of California in San Francisco on Wednesday, January 14 to present the oral argument for their appeal.

Scott Terry, author of Cowboys, Armageddon and The Truth (and a personal friend of Candace Conti and her mother Kathleen) was in court to show his support for Candace. He wrote about his experience on Facebook. (To read the full text, click here.)

“John Williams, Counsel for the WBTS, spoke first,” wrote Terry. “He really only had two points to make, which is that it could not be proven that any elders in the Fremont congregation had specifically assigned children to go out in public field service (door to door preaching, for those unfamiliar with the term) with a known child molester. His second point was that even though Conti had been put in danger by pairing her with someone who the congregation’s elders knew to be a predator, the WBTS should not be held liable for events that happened within a congregation.”

Terry goes on to describe how John Williams was followed by a “Brother McCabe” of the Fremont congregation (one assumes the same McCabe who was quoted on JWmedia.org), who addressed the judge by essentially repeating the same arguments put forward by Williams. McCabe even, we are told, quoted scriptures in the courtroom in an effort to drive home his point.

“In response, one judge read a piece of court testimony from a witness that the WBTS had previously called to their defense,” reports Terry. “That testimony, from a fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses, contradicted McCabe and Williams’ statements. Field service assignments are often determined by elders, the evidence showed.”

Candace graduated as a Veterinary Technician in the summer of 2014

Candace graduated as a Veterinary Technician in the summer of 2014

Rick Simons, attorney to Candace Conti (who was interviewed together with Candace by readers of JWsurvey not so long ago), then gave a response to the oral arguments that was described by Terry as “brief, but effective.”

“Brother McCabe from the Fremont congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not someone I found believable,” wrote Terry, in summary. “In my opinion, the court did not find him believable. They questioned him very specifically on certain statements, and even voiced frustration at his inability or refusal to answer their very pointed questions.”

It is now expected to take two to three weeks for the court to respond to Watchtower’s oral argument, during which time Candace, her fiance and her mother face an anxious wait to determine whether justice has been finally served.

But in the words of another of Candace’s supporters, activist Julia Douglas, “Whatever is ultimately decided, Candace Conti is a trailblazer and a hero for the XJW community… [Her] job is done. Anything more is only icing on the cake.”

 

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JWsurvey articles on Candace Conti (in date order)…

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59 Responses to Watchtower appears in court to give oral arguments in appeal against Candace Conti verdict

  1. gary says:

    With what judgement you are judging you yourselves will be judged.

  2. sirius says:

    I wonder if the GB can even comprehend what they have on their hands & their apparent denial (i.e. cover up) let alone needing an operational policy in place (preventative) versus very costly legal wrangling outcome (reactive). Like many organizations learn the hardway as they draw-in people from society. There can not be enough time up front for planning including, and such as screening or providing remedies to your diplomats who are the front line. Interesting, with all incessive pounding of biblical scripts both in the Awake/Watchtower magazine etc why are they even at this point? Isn’t the bible the standard operating procedure? In other words it’s preventative & even predictive, yes? Still, the GB has a sizable burden of due diligence on their shoulders and ignorance is no excuse!

    My two cents on the case at hand. Certainly, I do not have enough of information to even scratch the surface still I wonder if the GB legal counsel looked at the Catholic Church and their priests as a bit of a benchmark. The use and abuse of children as objects for sexual gratification of adults is epidemic in all classes, professions, religions and ethnic communities across the globe as figures on child pornography, incest, and child prostitution make abundantly clear. My point here is as bad as pedophilia is, how bad is bad? Pedophilia is a particular type of compulsive sexual disorder in which an adult (man or woman) abuses prepubescent children. In the wake of the current crisis in the Church, other religious denominations and non-religious institutions have admitted to having similar problems with both pedophilia and ephebophilia – homosexual attraction to adolescent boys. There appears to be no evidence that Clerics (ie Catholics) are more likely to be pedophiles than Protestant ministers, Jewish leaders, physicians, or any other institution in which adults are in a position of authority and power over children. If one was to apply a bit of statistical(normal distribution) logic, 2% there is 2% here. In summary as one lawyer told me it’s better to reveal than conceal. Also don’t use legal counsel as attack dogs.

    Ref: Pedophiles and Priests, Philip Jenkins

    All in my humble opinion

    dogstar

    PS One has to wonder if the GB will default to their spiral wound notebook on hard-wired excuses and claim, satan is still hard at work!

  3. JWIntellect says:

    @ anonymous

    Excellent points and very well said!

  4. Chris says:

    Hello cedars blog why was my comment not posted

  5. gary says:

    Bastards (in the relation to the article I’ve just read)
    Watching the wheels , John Lennon.

  6. gary says:

    Love you though. **** em. Stick to the truth and it’ll stick to you.

  7. gary says:

    Interesting new law in England.

  8. gary says:

    I would have loved to have met her.
    Don’t become the monster.x

  9. gary says:

    Agreed, Dear prudence. . . The Beatles.

  10. gary says:

    Will read later. Dear prudence come out to play.

  11. gary says:

    Come near him , I’ll die first. Tell him.

  12. StrongHaiku says:

    I am so grateful to Candace Conti and others that were not silent and stood up to do what was right. And, she and other should be commended for another set of reasons as well…

    When I left the JWs and became an atheist (and by default an “apostate”) I was made to feel morally inferior to my family who remained in the “Organization”. And, over 25 years they have taken every opportunity to make me feel like I was less than them. I don’t think this is a unique experience to ex-JWs. And, many of us are so conditioned that we accepted the punishment and ongoing shunning as if we deserved it. And, many years later I continued to carry the shame and guilt. Crazy right? I don’t think I am alone on this one.

    What this case and others has made me realize is that my family and the “Organization” are the ones who should be ashamed. The silence by people in the “Organization” speaks loudly that they have chosen to follow and be loyal to a morally bankrupt “Organization” over doing what is right (Biblically, Ethically, and Legally).

    So, thank you Candace (and many who have stood up) because you have reminded me that my family and the “Organization” has no moral high-ground to stand on. And, that is extremely empowering.

    On a side note: To any JW out there that might read this, I want you to take a minute to think about being logically consistent with your own professed beliefs. If you are a JW please remember that the Bible you believe in is littered with examples of prophets (including Jesus) who stood up and called out people and nations for wrongdoing. Some of these nations and people thought they were “a special people” until God judged them otherwise. If you feel like you cannot be moved to challenge the unscriptural and unethical practices of the “Organization”, please ask yourself – why not? Look, I’m a non-believer but I am pretty sure if you dig around the Bible and WT publications you will find that calling out hypocrisy and wrongdoing on “God’s chosen people” puts you on God’s side. Heck, people who did things like this used to be called “Prophets of God”. At the very least, ask yourself if you would call out the wrongdoing if it wasn’t the “Organization”. Rules have to apply to everyone or they mean nothing.

  13. Excelsior! says:

    Folks,

    After steeling myself, I checked JW.org and found, to my horror, a worksheet encouraging children to work with full time preachers!

    This brought to my mind that dear Candace was abused while she was on “field service”!

    The WTBTS would not warn a parent that one of these full time preachers was a paedophile! Why on earth are they encouraging parents and children to work with unveted adults? It’s disgusting!

    Peace be with you,

    Excelsior!

  14. Excelsior! says:

    Folks, full time servants, is the correct title for the worksheet designed for children.

    The WTBTS do not warn that “full time servants” or anyone else is a paedophile, even if they are convicted!

    Potentially, any adult JW could be a paedophile. The WTBTS do not even care about the vast majority of JWs being under potential suspicion, who are as revolted by paedophilia as we are.

    Of course, I am not stating that every JW is a paedophile. But the sad fact is that there is no mechanism in the WTBTS to have any chance of vetting people.

    This worksheet is part of a deliberate attempt by the WTBTS to maintain the status quo. They do not want to change their policies. They do not want to protect children.

    Peace be with you, Excelsior!

  15. Willows says:

    When you know a child preditor is in your organization and you do not keep track of him at all times you are in turbulent waters .

  16. Excelsior! says:

    Willows,

    No organisation is expected to keep track of known paedophiles at all times. That is the job of the State, in line with statute.

    The fact that the WTBTS has tried to defend their attempts to keep track of their “sexual predators” demonstrates their arrogance and their allegiance, not to democracy and the rule of law, but to their own twisted theology.

    I can think of no other organisation that would want to keep serious crimes such as child abuse “in house” like this.

    This is an organisation that receives charitable status for a world wide education programme! No other educational organisation would be permitted to circumvent laws and refuse to report accusations of child abuse! Every other educational organisation has vetted individuals working with children and young people. They have a fit for purpose child protection policy.

    When are governments going to understand that the WTBTS needs to adopt vetting of all members of their religion that have dealings with children? They have an educational programme on their website aimed at pre school to teenage children, for goodness sake!

    This terrible scandal fills me with rage. I cannot abide anyone who is cruel to children. It must be stopped.

    I take courage in the fact that the WTBTS is losing the cases brought against them from victims. They are losing their wholesome, family friendly image. Not long from now, the rank and file are going to be met with the refrain,

    “Oh, you’re JWs? Aren’t you the ones that have been covering up child abuse for years? No thanks!

    Tell everyone you can about this. Let people know just what sort of people run JW.Org

    Peace be with you, Excelsior!

  17. Karen says:

    Is there any update on this yet? It’s been a while. I didn’t miss it, did I?

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