The Watch Tower Society has had its motion against the jury’s verdict in the Candace Conti case denied, despite seeing the final amount of payable damages significantly reduced. The total amount payable by Watchtower now stands at over $11 million, not including interest charges.
Despite this huge setback, on 20th September Watchtower filed a Notice of Appeal, confirming their desire to continue to fight the verdict through an appellate court, or court of appeals. Candace Conti’s legal team is already making preparations in readiness for the new proceedings.
News of this case first broke back in June when it emerged that the Society had lost its first lawsuit in more than 70 years over the mishandling of reported child abuse. The internet was soon awash with the story, which was covered by numerous media organizations. Nearly a week after the news had spread, the Society gave a belated response on their website denying responsibility and indicating that they would appeal the verdict.
Their subsequent motion for JNOV (judgment notwithstanding verdict) has been dismissed, although the judgment has been altered since it was deemed that the damages awarded were excessive. The judge in this case was asked to overrule the jury’s damning verdict that the Society is legally responsible for the abuse suffered by Candace Conti when she was only nine years old, but he has declined to do this and the verdict still stands pending the Watchtower’s appeal.
To view copies of the amended judgment, please click here.
A Losing Battle
At a specially arranged meeting on July 14th, Candace’s solicitor Rick Simons explained why the jury in this case was so repulsed by what happened. Jury members were shocked to learn that the Watchtower’s child abuse policies meant that a known pedophile could potentially call at anyone’s door on a Saturday morning with the backing of his or her local elders. Whatever excuses or explanations the Watchtower’s legal team try to offer, they cannot deny that this scenario is possible thanks to their rigid interpretation of the “two witness rule”, whereby a pedophile can deny charges and be considered innocent so long as there are no other witnesses to the abuse.
It was this unyielding and reckless stance that led to nine-year-old Candace Conti being molested multiple times at the hands of a member of her congregation who was known to the local elders as having molested other children. Despite their knowledge of his disgusting tendencies and criminal behavior, the best they could do was strip him of his position as a ministerial servant – but in so doing they failed to warn parents in the congregation.
By taking these actions, the North Fremont elders weren’t acting of their own volition, but under the written instructions of the United States branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn. Yes, the paper trail led directly to the Society, and try as they may, they were unable to disprove their involvement.
Digging A Hole
The smart thing to do at this stage would be for the Society to recognize that they have erred and take urgent steps to bring their child abuse policies into conformity with the law and the basic principles of community responsibility. However, it seems the Watchtower leadership is driven, not by logic and common sense, but by blind hope that their flawed religious convictions will eventually be vindicated by God – the same God who instructs all of his servants to obey the “superior authorities”. (Romans 13:1)
The Governing Body essentially expects Jehovah to come to their rescue even though they have contravened his principles by disregarding secular law and their responsibility to the community. Such naivety has already been punished in a court of law, and there is no reason to believe that things will be any different as the appeal process drags on.
A Mother’s Support
Standing at Candace’s side throughout this whole emotionally draining process has been her devoted mother, Kathleen Conti. Kathleen, who herself suffered at the hands of a child molester in her youth, is full of pride for the courage and conviction shown by her daughter as she continues her fight to make congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world safer for children.
Kathleen appreciates only too well the huge ramifications of this legal battle, and how it is inspiring others to take a stand. She told JWsurvey: “This is not like a court battle over freedom of religion or their tax status, this is about criminal acts against children.” She has revealed that an increasing number of similar lawsuits are now being planned, inspired by the Conti case, that the Watchtower Society is presently unaware of. She remarked: “It is even worse than I had first heard. This is going to be very bad for them.”
Indeed, the Watch Tower Society will likely feel that the worst is behind them, but Kathleen feels differently. She told me: “It is good that the Watchtower is going to appeal the Conti Case, because within a year a perfect storm that is beyond their comprehension is going to bust open.” It remains to be seen precisely what form this “perfect storm” will take, but it could very well include a barrage of negative media exposure and fresh lawsuits.
We will have to wait and see what the future brings. However, it seems the shock waves from the Candace Conti verdict continue to reverberate. By all accounts, things are likely to get much worse for the Society unless they can somehow summon the humility and wisdom to yield to urgent calls for change, and take more seriously their grave responsibility to protect the children under their stewardship.
To read this article in Hungarian, please click here.
You can read my other articles on the Candace Conti verdict by clicking here.