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.”
“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.”
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.”
JWsurvey articles on Candace Conti (in date order)…
- The Watchtower Punished: Society loses legal battle over child abuse case
- The Girl Who Took On The Watchtower – Candace Conti Speaks Out
- Watchtower files appeal after JNOV motion is denied
- Patterson on the line: Watchtower claims that paying bond premium would lead to “immediate irreparable harm and hardship”
- “You can’t use Patterson!” – Court denies Watchtower’s bond motion
- In their own words: Candace Conti and Rick Simons speak out in their 2013 interview videos
- Watchtower files reply brief as Conti appeal continues
- Candace Conti speaks out at RNA 2013 conference