Bay Area Jehovah’s Witness Group To Pay $20 Million To Sexually Abused Woman
In what both sides described as a momentous ruling, a jury in Oakland, Calif., has found that Jehovah’s Witnesses was partly responsible for the alleged sexual abuse of a girl by one of its members and must pay her more than $20 million.
The Alameda County Superior Court jury on Thursday awarded $21 million in punitive damages to the plaintiff, who is now 26 years old. That was on top of the $7 million in compensatory damages it awarded her on Wednesday.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity, is responsible for the entire punitive damages amount and 40 percent of the compensatory damages, said Rick Simons, attorney for the plaintiff. Sixty percent of the compensatory damages was assessed against Jonathan Kendrick, the man accused of abusing her.
Candace Conti sued Watchtower, the Fremont, Calif., congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Kendrick in 2011. It’s msnbc.com’s policy not to identify victims of sexual abuse, but Conti agreed to be identified so that any other victims would feel they could come forward too.
“The ultimate goal of the lawsuit was to have a change in policy, to be able to ID these people, child molesters, to the congregation to protect children,” Conti told msnbc.com. “Secondarily, to have silent ones come forward and tell their stories and to bring to light that overall issue of violence and the hush-hush policy.”
Both her parents were Watchtower congregation members at the time of the abuse, she said.
“I was trying to be the best Jehovah’s Witness I could be at that time,” she told msnbc.com.
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