Below are some of our videos explaining sexual abuse prosecutions, lawsuits, and settlements. To learn more about this topic, click Sexual Abuse Lawsuits.
Attorneys Mike Papantonio and Archie Lamb Discuss Sexual Abuse By The Catholic Church
Mike Papantonio: For decades the Catholic church has been battling allegations it become a haven for pedophiles and sexual predators. Last week, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania was released that blew up the massive coverups and corrupt behavior the church officials and clergy members had helped engage in to keep these scandals completely from becoming public. What we know right now is that more than 300 different members of the Catholic church in Pennsylvania, over the course of seven years, sexually abused more than 1,000 individuals, nearly all of them young children. The church helped to cover up this criminal behavior with a playbook that helped individual churches keep these dirty secrets while violators were just handed off to a different parish to abuse again.
Joining me now to talk about this grandeur report and the Catholic church’s disgusting history of abuse is attorney Archie Lamb. Archie, start by telling us how widespread is this abuse problem? It seems like every year we hear this story, the media pays attention to it, and then it disappears. You’ve handled these cases, you’re a bit of an expert in this area. Give us your take. How widespread is the problem?
Archie Lamb: Well, it’s all over the world. We looked at Ireland, Australia, Chile, Dominican Republic over the last 10 years all had these massive discoveries of child abuse, pedophilia, in the Catholic church. The playbook that they had to hide is obviously working. Only two cases out of these thousand victims, only two priests have been held accountable.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah you’ve seen the playbook. You’ve actually had to cross examine about that playbook and some of the issues in the playbook. I want to read something. I think this is important. This came from the report. This is just a part of the report. It said, “Despite a priest’s admission to assaulting at least a dozen young boys the Bishop wrote to thank this priest for all that he’s done for God’s people.” Really? Have we gotten to that point to where the church has created a culture that has such little self-awareness that this has been perpetuated not just for decades, for a century. Tell me about your reaction to that? Here again, a priest admits to assaulting dozens of young boys, mostly under the age of seven and the next thing we see is that the Bishop is saying, “Thanks, for all you’ve done for God’s work.” What’s your take?
Archie Lamb: This has been nothing but, throughout the centuries, protection of property and money. That’s it. They knew that they would be embarrassed in the community. They knew in the United States they’d be subject to civil and criminal punishment. You know that hurts? That hurts them at their core financial underpinnings. This is all this plan was, to protect the money of the Catholic church from being held accountable for these crimes.
Mike Papantonio: Okay let me tell you the reaction that I’ve noticed over the years. When you talk to people that have been say to the Sistine Chapel or they’ve been to Rome and they’ve seen this grandiose exhibit of the Catholic church. I mean this is Exhibit A of the Catholic church. They walk away and I’ve heard this so many times, and I’ve been there several times. I ask myself the same question, what is this about? You’ve got something billions and billions of dollars pumped into this culture. The house of the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, all of those trappings. You ask yourself, “Where does that money come from?” Part of the answer is, the goal is to keep that money. You handled a case I recall years ago over in Mobile. I recall in your discussion on that when we talked about it you said, “They just kept throwing money, after money, after money to keep it quiet. Talk about that just a minute.
Archie Lamb: Well what it is, it is indeed a systemic plan to hold off, cover up, in terms of the archbishop in that case came in to defend the priest that was clearly a pedophile because he didn’t want to have to pay money in the case. When they do get caught they will come into confidential settlements. They will not disclose anything at all about those amounts of money they pay. The tragedy here is there were a thousand children abused, that they knew about, that are documented. Only a couple of the priests got caught. We know from having studied pedophilia that if you had a thousand victims named, they’re multiple thousands of victims out there that have still yet to come forward as a result of this Pennsylvania debacle.
Mike Papantonio: Look, explain this playbook. I mean you’ve crossed examined about it, you’ve seen, it really is a playbook. If we find a priest that has sexually assaulted a parishioner these are the things we do. Step one, step two, step three. It begins by discredit, discredit the child who’s been abused. Take it from there.
Archie Lamb: What they do first is, they don’t hire investigators, they don’t do any sort of legitimate investigation of the priest, number one. Number two, they put the blame on the victim. Number three, they refuse to use terms like rape or oral sex in any of the descriptions of the reports that they do. Number three they ship them off to Catholic owned and run recovery places. So that they refurbish the priest and then they will send him to a different parish, and don’t tell that parish of the proclivities of this priest to be a pedophile.
Mike Papantonio: Archie, they even have talking points for the parents don’t they. They even have talking points where they’re pleading with the parents, don’t hurt the church. You’ve been a member of this church for so long, you’re three generations in this church. You’ve always given money to the church. Let us take you to Rome to remind you. Let us have you walk around Sistine chapel to remind you what you’re putting at risk if you don’t get this under control. Get this under control means tell your child to hush. Haven’t you seen that-
Archie Lamb: That’s exactly right. You see in many of the reports where the parishioners are interviewed. You don’t see the outrage of what’s happened to these children. What you see is the defense of the church. They say, “Well the Catholics aren’t the only ones that are doing this.” There are pedophiles outside the Catholic church there’s no question about it, but it’s an institution of pedophilia in the Catholic church and at some point, they have to face that.
Mike Papantonio: It’s become cultural. I almost look at this men in black robes, men in white robes with pointed hats and you go, “Has this become a cult?” If you open up and you say, “Sometimes we have to talk about religion. Sometimes we have to abandon this fear that we have where it comes talking about religion. See, we’re quick to call the Mormons a cult in Utah. For some reason we aren’t willing to say that this whole Catholic church thing, this little club of priests that don’t get married that now we find abusing young children. We’re afraid to say, “Has this become cultish in nature?” When you handled these cases, what’s your reaction? Am I overstating this notion of a cult?
Archie Lamb: No, they use the people’s faith to beat down objection institutionally and they get away with it. It’s worked. Honestly, the tenor of the report of the grand jury as they write and I’ve read most of the 800 pages, is “Well, in 2002, they changed their ways. They kind of have a handle on this now.”
Mike Papantonio: Did you buy that then? I didn’t buy it then.
Archie Lamb: No.
Mike Papantonio: Now we see that was a total lie too. I want to read … this grand jury is incredible. “The grand jury notes example after example where child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests within Allentown,” they said, “These examples highlight the wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children throughout this whole process in Allentown.” You’ve got the say, the people who are still defending this, these are the faithful followers, they’re still defending it and what they’re doing is, they’re putting these characters, these abusive psychological led characters, that they’re putting them above the health of those children. They’ve been doing that now for decades. They’ve been doing it for a century and we have to say at some-
Archie Lamb: Two centuries.
Mike Papantonio: Two centuries. We have to say, “What does it take? Does it take more criminal prosecutions?” I don’t know how else to solve it.
Archie Lamb: There’s a self analysis done by those in the Catholic church. Critics have had to deal with it and are trying to do something about it and they say that the Cardinals need to be flushed out of the system and start over.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. Rather than flushing out the system, the Catholic church right now, they’re saying that their membership is dropping. That’s what’s happening to the Catholic church. Membership is dropping. They’re seeing that the people who are willing to go into the priesthood are dropping. What they’re finding is, if you really read between the lines is, we’re willing to tolerate almost anything and as you put it, it’s all about the dollar. It’s all about business isn’t it?
Archie Lamb: No question.
Mike Papantonio: The type of abuse that just happened in this church was also, the entire church had to be complicit and what was happening in Pennsylvania. This doesn’t happen and everybody say, “Gee wiz, we had no idea this was going on.” How do you get there?
Archie Lamb: Their recovery centers are in Baltimore, they’re in New Mexico. They go to the same recovery center and then they’re shipped out to a different diesis in a different state whether it’s Texas, New Mexico, many of the priests that had perpetrated these crimes in Pennsylvania had been send to New Mexico and to Texas and performed the same way there because this is a disease.
Mike Papantonio: Right. Okay, there are places around the country, you know the places, when you handle these cases, you go to a place like Boston, it’s such a huge, huge Catholic influence. You go to places like Pennsylvania, huge influence. What’s happened, what’s very apparent is, this is something that actually infects the politics, it infects law enforcement, it affects local politics all the way down to commissioners to all of these people that are willing to say, “Gee wiz, they made another mistake. We caught another sexual abusing priest who’s been abusing children, from what we can see, for decades, they caught another one but you know what? We have to stand tall for what they’ve done because they’ve built this memorial. They’ve built this school.” We see that and you saw it in the case that you handled right there in Mobile didn’t you?
Archie Lamb: Yeah. It’s politically influenced. In other words, there’s a reason that the statute of limitations give them so much freedom to go so long until the witness and the evidence is stale. Mean, the one gentleman’s 83 years old, he’s finally coming forward now. They keep them paralyzed emotionally and culturally with the religion and the faith and shame and it infects law enforcement, it infects politics and the way the people look at them and the stigma associated with their church culture. I mean, it is a very thorough propaganda and a plan, a secret plan that has worked.
Mike Papantonio: All I can tell you Archie is, it’s going to take some people engaging in a perk walk. Law enforcement has got to get tough on this issue before anything really happens.
Archie Lamb: I agree.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you for joining me.
Archie Lamb: Thank you.
Attorneys Mike Papantonio and Kim Adams discuss the USC Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Mike Papantonio: Over the past 20 years, victims of sexual assault and harassment have finally begun seeing their perpetrators face justice in the form of criminal prosecution, and large jury verdicts and settlements. With the surging #MeToo movement just last year, more than 200 powerful people, celebrities, politicians, CEOs and even college administrators have been the subject of sexual harassment or assault allegations, and finally they’re being held accountable for their actions.
But while most of the media attention has been focused on the criminal aspect of sexual assault, there are plenty of civil lawsuits against organizations and institutions that helped to cover up years of abuse. Because we have to remember that it wasn’t just the people committing the assault, but also the organizations that helped cover it up and prevent victims from coming forward to tell their stories.
One of the more highly publicized cases was the story of Larry Nassar, the former medical trainer at Michigan State University, who also worked with USA Gymnastics training Olympians. Nassar is currently serving out the beginning of his 300 year sentence after abusing young women for more than a decade. The institutions that employed Nassar have reached a $500 million settlement with his victims, because they simply chose to ignore the complaints against him.
The list is endless, with the Penn State, the Catholic church and the University of Southern California being just a few of the organizations that either covered up abuse or just chose to ignore it. But as more women and men come forward to expose their abusers, these organizations are finding out that turning a blind eye to this kind of criminal behavior comes with a very hefty price tag.
Joining me to talk about sexual assault litigation is attorney Kim Adams. Kim, most people probably understand the criminal aspect of what’s happening, but they don’t understand the civil litigation side. In general, tell us how these sexual harassment assault lawsuits are being filed, and where do they go after the filing?
Kim Adams: You know, you’re right. Most people understand criminal aspect, criminal conduct equals getting your liberties taken away. On the civil side, which often happens with sexual assault or sexual harassment cases, the victim is permitted to file an assault claim, which some might refer to as the swing, a battery claim, which others will refer to as the actual hit, and then intentional infliction of emotional distress for just outrageous conduct causing emotional distress.
So you’ve got a claim against that actual perpetrator. The problem is sometimes there’s not any money there, right? Insurance policies aren’t going to cover intentional acts. There are other often culprits involved, which you kind of alluded to. Institutions, schools, businesses, and so there’s another arm of that claim. Those allegations normally are negligent hiring or supervision, where schools and/or other businesses and entities knew of a person’s background and sort of put people in harm’s way. Also, you might look at failure to protect the people. They knew that things were happening on their campus, criminal activity, and they failed to put someone there to protect them.
Then the third aspect of ways that you enter the civil system with sexual harassment, would be against employers. There are allegations of quid pro quo. Let me ask you for sexual favors, so that you can keep your job or advance in your job. Also, maybe a hostile work environment, where there’s some kind of sexual demeaning or hostile environment that’s been put upon an employee. Those are ways that you can sort of enter into the civil system.
Mike Papantonio: Nobody’s really talking that much about the University of Southern California. It’s a very important case. Actually, full disclosure were somewhat involved with … Explain that case a little bit.
Kim Adams: Yeah, it’s hugely unfortunate, and it is a very important topic, because people are sending their children to these universities. This doctor was hired to do the gynecological exams for the entire university. He’s been there, and these allegations have been swirling for 15 plus years. The allegations are not just minimal allegations. Yeah, there were some allegations that he had made sort of inappropriate jokes. Okay, maybe that’s unethical, but is it criminal or actionable? But it does further than that. He’s taking his gloves off to perform these exams, he’s taking pictures of these college girls genitalia. He’s making sexually explicit comments about their bodies, all over the last 15 years. These allegations from the nurses that are actually in the room continue to go undocumented, uninvestigated.
So this man’s been able to allegedly perform these acts for a very, very long time. I think you’re going to hear a lot more as the evidence is uncovered on this Southern Cal case.
Mike Papantonio: When I listen to the facts, this is a case that actually developed late. What I mean by that, there was already all of this information out there about Penn State. There was this information out about what was going on with the Catholic church in very specific kinds of ways. There was a ton of information that should’ve said to the people at this university, “Get control of your own university”, because it’s happening right here, and it sounds like it was ignored. It’s very apparent to me that people there understood what was happening. What’s your take?
Kim Adams: Their initial comment and reaction was, “Wasn’t our job to report this criminal conduct. It wasn’t our job to sort of move forward with that. I think that’s clearly just idiocy of not understanding and not having the desire to actually protect the very students that are paying to go there. So I think you’re absolutely right. As this evidence is uncovered, we’re going to see a lot of these actions, and I think Southern Cal’s got a lot of answering to do.
Mike Papantonio: Well, Southern Cal to me, again, what is so amazing … It’s not like these administrators, these people who covered it up, these people who said, “Oh it’s not my job”, it’s not like they have a leg to stand on, because they understand the evolution of all this. They understand how one of these lawsuits come about.
My bet is as we look further and further into this case, we’re going to find that there was very direct knowledge that some of these people who knew about it believed this, “Well, we’ve let it go on too long. If we disclose it now, we’re going to lose our job.” That’s where I really think we’re going to find this case head.
One of the questions that may come up with the #MeToo movement is why the victim didn’t come out publicly sooner. Tell us why women are often afraid to come forward after they’ve been clearly assaulted.
Kim Adams: Right, you hear that a lot. I think there’s numerous psychological articles that are published on it. I think there’s a few things. First, when a woman is violated in that manner, that the shame starts to set in. People don’t really understand it, I don’t think, until you’ve lived it. I think that with that comes, they start to sort of blame themselves. Hey, I smile, I’m friendly, maybe I gave the wrong impression. So they start to shame themselves in that way.
They also start to minimize the efforts of their perpetrator. They say, “Well …”, and sometimes even feel sorry for them. “Well, maybe he had drank a little bit too much, or I should not have put myself in that position.” But I think when you touch on getting past that emotional and that psychological aspect, and you look at the fear, yes, the consequences women fear, losing credibility and losing their credibility by coming out.
They don’t want to be blackballed in their industry because they called out their buddies or their employers or their school’s doctor. They don’t want to be looked at as a troublemaker. “Oh goodness, here now we’re going to have trouble for our organization because you’re alleging these issues happened.” So I think women do tend to keep it close to the vest for a number of reasons. Fear is just one of those.
Mike Papantonio: Do you think the fall of powerful men like Weinstein and Cosby will encourage more women to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement, Kim?
Kim Adams: So, I think that maybe. What #MeToo has done is it’s sort of given a platform for women to understand where the lines are drawn. You mentioned Southern Cal. The doctor’s saying, “I’ve gotta take my glove off because I can’t feel this, that or the other. So they don’t know the differences, right? The nurses know the difference, but the students maybe not know.
So I think that you may see women come forward. You may also see just women start to feel a little more comfortable. The motto for #MeToo was empowerment by empathy. So both men and women now feel like, “Hey, okay this is sort of a safe place for me to go ahead and say, ‘I’ve been exposed to these things,'” And #MeToo has also catapulted that next movement, which is time’s up. We’re not going to tolerate this anymore. Now everyone needs to understand where are the guidelines, where are the boundaries, and this is where they are.
So I think #MeToo has given some positivity. I think there’s been a tad bit of backlash, because unfortunately when it came out on social media and these social media platforms, people were blurring very distinct lines between a clumsy come-on … I think I read one person describe it, and a rape. Those people were being treated the same. I think that we have to be very careful to keep those lines distinct, because they are not the same.
Mike Papantonio: Quickly, Kim, what do women need to know about their rights if they find themselves being harassed or assaulted by a co-worker, a boss or whatever the case might be. What do women need to know?
Kim Adams: So then you know they have an action. They have a recourse. I think first off, some steps is to make sure you document the event document the date, the time, people who may have witnessed it. I think if you get notes, memos, letters, text messages, phone calls, save the evidence. I think understand your workplace’s sexual harassment policy, and make sure that you follow those guidelines, report it. The law permits an employer a chance to correct the incident, correct the wrong. So you need to make sure that you report it. If you don’t report it, you’re not giving yourself much leg to stand on. You’re also not preventing this from happening in the future.
For workplace issues, you have to file complaints with the EEOC. Then maybe hire an attorney to make sure you’ve got an unbiased third party to evaluate the facts that you’re giving them.
Mike Papantonio: Kim, keep up with the Southern Cal case as it develops with you. Keep us in touch with what’s happening. I think it’s going to be a lot more interesting as this develops.
'Perversion Files’ Reveal Pedophile Cover-Up By Boys Scouts Of America
Mike Papantonio: The Boy Scouts of America are being accused of allowing known pedophiles to volunteer as scout leaders for the organization. The accusations are being made by a former member who says one of those pedophiles was relocated after allegedly sexually abusing boys in Georgia.
Joining me to talk about this is RT correspondent, Brigida Santos. Brigida, the person accusing the boy scouts of these charges. He has actually filed the lawsuit. What does the lawsuit say happened to the former member?
Brigida Santos: So the lawsuit says exactly what you said, that the Boy Scouts of America and knowingly allowed a scout leader named Samuel Otts to relocate from Georgia to Arkansas. While he was in Georgia, he was accused of sexually assaulting young boys and when he got to Arkansas, that’s when the plaintiff in this case, William Stevens, says that Otts sexually abused him at least eight times, beginning in 1979 when he was about 10 years old.
Now, Stevens is alleging that the Boy Scouts of America has done a huge campaign over the years to hide any allegations of sexual assault as well as known pedophilia cases within the organization from the members, their parents and the public, so he is now seeking monetary damages from the organization as well as the Arkansas chapter for negligence and abuse. As for the scout leader who was accused of sexual assault in this case, he is believed to be deceased.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, I mean this is unfolding the same way that it does for Hollywood, the same way it does for the Catholic Church, the same way it does for the University of Southern Cal, I mean it’s all the same kind of mechanism. If you take one of these issues and lay it on top of the other, it always looks the same. We heard early reports that were kicking around about the same problem existing in the Scouts and now something called The Perversion Files. Literally, that’s what it was called, was made public a few years back on that particular organization, the Perversion Files. What are those documents reveal and how does it relate to the recent lawsuit, Brigida?
Brigida Santos: The Perversion Files were initially called the ineligible volunteer files and they were a list of volunteers who had been flagged and mainly for allegations of sexual assault. Now, they were only made public in 2012, thanks to a court order and still the Boy Scouts of America has done a great job at trying to hide it. The LA Times actually put the entire list out in 2012, but a lot of members are still unaware of the existence of this list.
And the reason why it is relevant in this case is because the plaintiff William Stevens says that he first learned about the fact that the Boy Scouts of America knew and had listed his abuser on the Perversion Files list.
Mike Papantonio: And apparently they’re doing the same thing the Catholic Church does. They get caught for some kind of perversion on one place and then they move that person to another place and nobody talks about it.
And the people at the top never get sued. They get to keep their job. See, that’s part of the problem here. It’s all about those people at the top that say, “You know, if we let this out,” it’s like Penn State. This is exactly what happened at Penn State. Penn State, the people at the very top were concerned that they had let it go on too long already and if they disclose it now, they were gonna lose their job.
Well yeah, they’re going to lose their job. They should lose their job. Same things happen at USC. The issue is the same. It plays out the same way every time, and then this other issue, the statute of limitations, for example, keeps coming up as a barrier against former scouts who want to take their abusers to court. For those not familiar with that, explain what that is and how it’s established, this idea of statute of limitation, especially in a sexual abuse case of a minor.
Brigida Santos: So the statute of limitations are laws that are put in place that put a maximum timeframe after an event for which somebody can bring forward a lawsuit and they are initially implemented with the idea that people should file a lawsuit within a reasonable timeframe in order to preserve any type of evidence that might be there. But in this case, the plaintiff says that he had no way to know that the Boy Scouts of America acted negligently and fraudulently until after he had read the publication himself listing the name of his abuser in it. So he is now able to sue on those grounds.
Mike Papantonio: Well, let me point … There’s all kinds of ways to get around the statute of limitation, all kinds of ways. First of all, this is a story that that developed slowly. There’s no … Nobody was put on notice on day one that the … There’s a bunch of perverts running around in the Boy Scouts and that there are sexual abuse issues are taking place around the country. That didn’t just happen all on one day. It’s a progressive amount of information that is fed out to the country.
The second part of it is you look to see what did that organization do to prevent that information from getting out? If they intentionally presented that information getting out, that affects statute of limitations. So just because something happened years ago and you’re just now saying, “Well, I want to do something,” don’t assume that there’s not a case there, I think is the point I’m trying to make. What has the organization done in recent times, Brigida, to deal with these allegations? How have they handled it?
Brigida Santos: They mainly settle. In fact, just this week they settled with another former member who had been sexually assaulted as well, but mostly they just put these people on a probation list. They are still trying to pretend that these files don’t exist. At one point, there were 20,000 people on a secret list of known pedophiles that had infiltrated the organization. So this is a widespread problem and it’s absolutely disturbing that these are children that are in the hands of these pedophiles.
Mike Papantonio: Here’s the real bad news. I used to be a prosecutor. I can attest to the fact it’s very, very difficult to rehabilitate a pedophile. Out of all of the rehabilitation analysis, the pedophile is virtually … It’s very difficult to rehabilitate a pedophile, so nothing gets better simply because you put them away for a while or you put them out of the way. It’s there and it’s a problem. Brigida, thank you for joining me.