On June 14, 2012 an Oakland, California jury took very little time to decide that the Watchtower Society was guilty of failing to protect the children in its care. The jury decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses care more about protecting their organization’s reputation than it does the safety of their own children and young people at a Kingdom Hall. That verdict and its potential long-term effects on the Watchtower Society should not be underestimated.
Located on the inland side of San Francisco Bay in California, Alameda County has a very typical but diverse middle-class American population. The city of Fremont is located directly across the Bay from Menlo Park, the site of other court cases involving the Watchtower’s taking over a Kingdom Hall. Based on the number of court cases under way in just the San Francisco Bay area, the “faithful slave’s” Legal Department must be working a lot of overtime.
In the case known as “Doe v. The Watchtower Society Bible and Tract Society of New York,” the jury ordered the Watchtower Society and the real perpetrator to pay nearly $7 million compensatory damages. The following day, the same jury awarded the plaintiff another $21 million in punitive damages. The Watchtower is on the hook for all the punitive and 40% of the compensatory damages. Jonathan Kendrick, now a registered sex-offender, did not testify as part of an agreement to not have to actually pay his part of the damages.
An outside attorney, Jim McCabe, led the Watchtower Society’s defense team. He expressed his disappointment with the verdict, declaring that there will be appeals and outcome of the case is likely to take several years. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses hate child abuse and believe it’s a plague on humanity,” McCabe said. His opinion was that a religious organization could not be held responsible for the actions of one its members, especially a member who held no responsible assignment for the Kingdom Hall.
Although Jonathan Kendrick had been a Ministerial Servant at one time, McCabe claimed that the Watchtower should not share in the blame because he was not an elder, only an average Witness who attended meetings at the North Fremont Kingdom Hall, located about 30 miles south of Oakland, California. He presented the Watchtower’s claim was that it was not responsible for the acts of someone who was only a member. “[He, Kendrick] brought liability on the group [the Watchtower and the Kingdom Hall] for actions he alone may have taken.”
Observers and reporters of the trial pointed out that the real reason the Watchtower lost the case and may find appeals expensive and fruitless, is because it set very clear policies on how to treat known pedophiles and other criminals within a Kingdom Hall. Board of Elder letters issued by the Watchtower clearly instructed the elders in charge NOT TO REPORT alleged crimes to the local police immediately (in spite of state laws requiring such reports), but rather to call the Watchtower’s Legal Department first for instructions on how to proceed.
The Watchtower further complicated their defense by instructing elders NOT TO WARN OTHER MEMBERS that a known molester was in their midst and that they should take steps to protect their children and restrict access to such persons.
The plaintiff’s lawyers provided concrete evidence that demonstrated that the Watchtower shared the blame in this and so many similar cases like it within their congregations.
Unlike earlier court cases that were eventually settled out of court, the plaintiff made it clear she was not interested in any settlement nor would she agree to non-disclosure. Instead, the plaintiff, 26-year Candace Conti, stated that she was not interested in getting rich from the court awarded damages. Her goal was to finally expose the Watchtower’s policies that put so many children at risk while protecting known sex offenders. She wanted to get the facts out to the public and fully expose the truth once and for all. It also helps that California law forbids “gag orders” on these kinds of cases.
Since Jonathan Kendrick molested Miss Conti in the 1990s, he was convicted for at least two other sex related crimes and is a state registered sex offender. Those who know him have indicated that he is still a Jehovah’s Witness “in good standing” and attends a Kingdom Hall near Oakley in nearby Contra Costa County. It is unlikely that he will ever be welcome again in the North Fremont Kingdom Hall.
Rick Simons, the plaintiff’s main attorney, called the verdict “the nation’s largest for a victim of sex abuse involving a religious institution.”
In 1989, the Watchtower published a policy instructing elders to keep reports of child sex abuse secret from Kingdom Hall members. In this case, the North Fremont elders did exactly that when they failed to inform the members in 1994 when they learned of Kendrick’s conviction for misdemeanor child molestation.
In spite of the elders having that knowledge, Kendrick had access to Miss Conti and other children in the North Fremont Kingdom Hall. He repeatedly molested her in 1995 and 1996. Miss Conti, now 26, was only 9 and 10 years old. Although the elders knew about the crime, they did not share that information with the rest of the congregation. Their secrecy allowed Kendrick the opportunity to molest other children as well.
That secret policy, as constructed and enforced by the Watchtower Society, has now been made public. The “cat is out of the bag” and “the genii is out of the bottle.” The Watchtower can deny the facts, lie, and even call this court case another example of “persecution of Jehovah’s people,” but the facts are finally on the table. The whole world now will soon know the real truth about “The Truth.”™ That revelation and judgment is proof that the Watchtower’s leaders have brought all of this down on their own heads.
The 58-year old Kendrick, a registered sex offender, was convicted in 2004 of molesting another girl in Contra Costa County, Simons said.
“That policy is still in place and it was a secret until, through the power of the court, it was put into evidence,” he said. “That policy was what this case was all about.”
Criminal charges have not been filed against Kendrick in connection with the Conti case, but authorities are investigating.
McCabe said there is a lot of dispute about the plaintiff’s accusations. “But if she was, in fact, abused then we feel horrible, and hope she can make a full recovery and lead a normal life.”
Conti said she had two goals in filing the lawsuit last year: She wanted to do whatever she could to protect children in the future and to encourage sex abuse victims who’ve been hurt by the policy of secrecy to come forward and make their voices heard. She knows that nothing can undo the pain and humiliation that she suffered at Kendrick’s hand and the Watchtower’s policies. But she hopes that the verdict will force the Watchtower to change its policies and give children and families better protection from sick or criminal members of a congregation.
“Hopefully, we can get them to change their policy. Maybe something good will good come out of it.”
Watchtower apologists are already complaining that the case had no merit and that the Watchtower is getting a raw deal. They are also hoping that the world in general doesn’t care enough to follow the case and its final outcome. One Watchtower supporter wrote, “No one really cares. Jehovah’s Witnesses are such a small religion that no one other than apostates and maybe some of Conti’s friends and family members will even take notice. Win or lose, a few million dollars won’t change a thing. The Governing Body makes the rules and they are guided by holy spirit – so who can fight against that? Sister Conti, her family, and all of her supporters will realize what a terrible mistake they made when Armageddon comes and Jehovah judges them as evil doers. I personally feel sorry for what happened to her, but I am more concerned that she gave up her everlasting life just to embarrass the Watchtower and to make herself rich.”
As editor of Ex-JW.com, I want to express my personal support for Miss Conti, her family, her supporters, and her legal team led by Rick Simons. By taking a firm stand against the Watchtower’s clearly illegal and damaging policies and exposing them to the world, she has done us all a great service. May she finally enjoy a life of peace, health, and freedom. I will do my best to make sure the word gets out about her successful pursuit of justice.
Thank you, Candace Conti!
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY
OAKLAND JURY HOLDS JEHOVAH WITNESSES RESPONSIBLE
FOR SEXUAL ABUSE OF FREMONT CHILD
An Alameda County Superior Court jury has found the Jehovah’s Witnesses legally responsible for the sexual abuse of a 9 year old former Fremont girl. The verdict, announced Wednesday June 13, found that the Elders who managed the North Fremont Jehovah’s Witness Congregation in the 1990s knew perpetrator Jonathan Kendrick had sexually molested another child, but kept his child abuse secret from the parents and families with children in the Congregation.
Kendrick went on to repeatedly sexually molest Candace Conti, now 26, over a two year period, using Jehovah Witnesses activities such as door to door neighborhood soliciting as his way to secretly gain control over his young victim. Kendrick was eventually convicted in 2004 of the sexual abuse of another young girl, and is now a Registered Sex Offender in California.
The key issue in the case, according to the victim’s attorney Rick Simons of Hayward, was the written policy of Watchtower New York, Inc., which instructed all Elders in Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations in the United States to keep reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses secret to avoid lawsuits. The case is believed to be the first in the nation to directly address the policy of secrecy, adopted in 1989, and still in force today.
Ms. Conti stated “I once wanted to be the best Jehovah’s Witness I could be. Now I feel I’m doing more to help other children in Jehovah’s Witnesses than I ever did walking door to door to spread the ‘good news’.”
The jury awarded $7 million dollars in damages, and will return Thursday to deliberate on whether or not punitive damages should be awarded.
Candace Conti spent 2 years trying to convince the Jehovah’s Witnesses, both in Southern California and in Fremont, to change the secrecy policy, but finally gave up and filed her lawsuit in 2011. “This young woman, who experienced brutal abuse as a child, could not tell anyone for several years, and has walked for many years in a nightmare of depression and isolation, has shown incredible courage in facing the powerful and secrecy laden organization that betrayed her into the hands of a monster” said Mr. Simons of his client.
The verdict came in the courtroom of Judge Robert McGuiness in Dept. 22, Oakland.
Domain Web case #: HG11558324 (Jane Doe v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.)
UPDATE: OAKLAND JURY ADDS $21 MILLION DOLLARS IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES TO
JEHOVAH’S WITNESS CHILD SEX ABUSE CASE
The Oakland jury which found on Wednesday that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were responsible for the repeated sexual molestation of a then 9 and 10 year old girl has added an award of $21,000,001 in punitive damages against Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
The case is the first in the nation to expose the formerly secret written policy of watchtower, in place since 1989, which required all elders to keep the identities of known child abusers in its Congregations secret from parents and other members. The policy allowed Candace Conti to be abused by North Fremont Congregation member Jonathan Kendrick soon after he was known by the elders to have sexually abused another girl.
For more information contact:
Rick Simons: text and cell 510-917-2169/ firstname.lastname@example.org/ office 510-582-1080×19