It is without doubt Watchtower’s biggest courtroom defeat since the hammer-blow Candace Conti verdict of 2012. Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves on the wrong end of a $13.5 million judgment, $10.5 million of which is earmarked as punitive damages against the Watch Tower Bible and Tracy Society of New York, Inc.
The case was filed in February 2013 after another victim of Gonzalo Campos stepped forward.
The victim, named as Jose Lopez, was just 7 years old when abused in 1986 by a man who posed as his bible mentor and a “fatherly figure.” By the time the series of attacks took place, Campos, whose conduct was known to elders as early as 1982, had already abused four other children.
Amazingly, despite there being evidence that Campos confessed his 1986 abuse of Lopez to elders, AND his abuse of another child years earlier, he eventually climbed the ranks to become an elder himself in 1993. As disgraceful as this sounds, this fits with Watchtower’s most recent policy letter, dated October 1 2012, which insists that: “It cannot be said in every case that one who has sexually abused a child could never qualify for privileges of service in the congregation.”
Currently evading US authorities in Mexico, Campos has since admitted to child sexual molestation during the period that he served in two San Diego congregations.
“Mr. Lopez has suffered for years as a result of this horrendous abuse and we are pleased that he will finally receive justice and compensation as a result of Judge Lewis’ strong ruling against the Watchtower,” says Irwin Zalkin, Mr Lopez’s attorney and increasingly a thorn in Watchtower’s side.
“The Watchtower has ignored sexual abuse complaints from its members for years, choosing to protect sexual predators and not children,” Zalkin added. “This ruling may hopefully awake the Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership to the standards of morality and care for children that our society demands.”
In a remarkable twist to this case (not picked up by the media thus far), it has emerged that Judge Lewis issued a “default judgment” against Watchtower after it refused to cooperate with court orders to present key documents and produce the longest serving member of the Governing Body, Gerrit Lösch, for a deposition.
Watchtower has already balked at the judgment, telling the media that it was “barred from participating” in the proceedings. However, if the organization had taken the court’s orders seriously enough in the first place, they would never have found themselves in such a predicament.
As explained in Zalkin Law Firm’s news release, which has been made available to JWsurvey: “California law permits the court to strike the answer of a defendant that refuses to abide by a court order and to enter a default judgment against them. After giving Watchtower every opportunity to comply with her order, Judge Lewis issued the terminating sanction and entered a default judgment against Watchtower. She then ordered the Zalkin Law Firm lawyers for the victim to prove their case by putting on evidence to support the allegations of the victim’s complaint. After hearing six days of testimony and presentation of written evidence, Judge Lewis was satisfied that the Plaintiff had more than adequately proved his case.”
As thinking Witnesses are left scratching their heads, wondering why their hard-earned contributions to the “world wide work” threaten to be diverted by yet another adverse sex abuse judgment, the questions continue to pile up.
What pressing matter prevented Gerrit Lösch from appearing as a witness in such an important case? Was he not concerned about the welfare of the child involved, not to mention the reputation of the organization he jointly represents? Why are the same policies that freed Gonzalo Campos to go about his despicable crimes unchecked still in place today? And how can an organization that claims to represent a God of love, justice and wisdom be condemned as “reprehensible and reckless” by a court judge?
- Jehovah’s Witnesses Ordered to Pay $13.5M to Bible Teacher’s Alleged Victim
- San Diego 6 article
- U-T San Diego article
- Guardian article
- Zalkin Law Firm news release
- Jehovah’s Witness Report article
- License to harm: Predator Gonzalo Campos was allowed by elders to prey on children
- JWsurvey articles on child abuse
Listen to the interview with lawyer Irwin Zalkin on the Nov 2nd episode of JWpodcast…
(Interview starts at 0:11:10)