See Paul’s comments to the Wall Street Journal on the payouts in the Boy Scout Bankruptcy

Why Payouts Are All Over the Map for Boy Scout Sexual Abuse Victims

Settlement fund could pay hundreds—or hundreds of thousands—for the same abuse

As a Boy Scout victim from Alabama, Gill Gayle is likely to get around $15,000 from a settlement fund compensating child sexual abuse victims, according to estimates.

But if he had been abused in New York, he would be eligible for more than 10 times that amount.

Gayle is one of more than 82,000 men who have submitted claims to a multibillion-dollar settlement fund set up after the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy amid an onslaught of child sexual abuse cases.

Victims are each entitled to up to $2.7 million from the fund, according to court documents, depending on the severity of the abuse they experienced and other factors.

But the settlement is designed to pay out less to men like Gayle, who grew up in states where their claims would likely be barred because too much time has gone by.

Some say the settlement as structured is generous—offering the men more than they likely would receive had they pursued their claims in state court. But others say it creates a patchwork where men abused in one state receive a fraction of what those in others receive.

Men in more than 30 states will likely have their awards reduced based on local statutes of limitation.

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Settlement waiting game for sex abuse victims, Rockville Centre diocese

Attorneys for survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse on Long Island say they are outraged the church in Syracuse has reached a settlement for $100 million while negotiations locally have dragged on for nearly three years.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre says it’s “grateful” for the upstate settlement, but at home, any deal between the Catholic Church and survivors will have to be fair toward victims while also allowing the diocese to remain financially viable.

Either way, reaching a similar agreement anytime soon appears a long shot, according to attorneys on the case.

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Rockville Centre diocese proposes up to $200 million settlement for clergy abuse survivors

The Diocese of Rockville Centre on Friday proposed a settlement of up to $200 million to be paid to hundreds of survivors of clergy sex abuse as it works toward emerging from bankruptcy.

Attorneys for survivors denounced the proposal as too little and said the diocese was not being transparent about its finances in papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. A week ago, lawyers for clergy sexual abuse survivors proposed a settlement in which the diocese would pay at least $450 million to victims.

The diocesan proposal calls for paying the survivors as a group a total of $185 million to $200 million, not including funds that could also come from insurance companies and could be hundreds of millions more.

“The Diocese believes the plan is the best means to efficiently and effectively pave the way for compensating survivors and emerging from bankruptcy,” the diocese said in a statement. It added: “Survivors deserve and expect a settlement now and [the diocese] hopes that all parties can work together to complete this equitable and unprecedented settlement offer.”

Some 620 childhood survivors of clergy sex abuse are affected by the negotiations, which have been going on since October 2020, when the diocese declared bankruptcy.

In court papers filed Friday, the diocese asserted that under one possible scenario, survivors could receive an estimated $370,000 to $400,000 each, not including payouts from third-party insurance companies.

The diocese argued that would be about triple the amount paid out to survivors from other dioceses that have gone through similar bankruptcies.

Paul Mones, a Los Angeles-based attorney for some of the survivors, said the proposed settlement is low, given that the diocese is one of the largest and wealthiest in the nation.

The diocese, for instance, pegs the contribution of its 134 parishes to the settlement at $11 million, he said.

“It’s ridiculous given the vast, vast resources that the parishes and diocese own,” he said.

He also said the proposal will likely lead to more extended court battles, which have already racked up a total of $56 million in attorneys’ fees on both sides.

Jason Amala, a Manhattan-based attorney representing 26 of the survivors, said the proposed plan does not disclose the wealth of the diocese and each of its parishes, leaving survivors unable to say whether a settlement is fair.

The survivors filed lawsuits against the diocese under the 2019 Child Victims Act, which during a two-year “look back window” allowed people to sue the church, schools and other institutions regardless of how long ago the alleged sexual abuse took place.

Some of the diocesan cases go as far back as 1957, the year it was founded, according to court papers.

Both sides on Friday accused the other of dragging out negotiations on the settlement.

“The alternative litigation path advocated by the” survivors “will take years, and wastefully drain resources that would otherwise be directed toward compensating survivors,” said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese.

“The litigation path also jeopardizes the common good of Long Island, particularly for those families that depend on the diocese to deliver compassionate health care, housing, education, food security, substance abuse, mental health and grief counseling, immigration services, religious and spiritual care,” he said.

But attorneys for the survivors said it was the diocese that is stonewalling the case, and noted that the bulk of attorneys’ fees have been charged by lawyers for the church.

The diocese “is attempting to bully survivors into submission,” said James Stang, the main lawyer representing the survivors, known as the Unsecured Creditors Committee.
Some of the settlement money would come from sources such as the sale of the diocesan headquarters for $5.2 million, the court papers stated.

The diocese has already paid out $62 million to about 350 other survivors under a separate diocesan program that began in 2017.

Lawyers for the survivors said those payments and the proposed settlement are low compared with other cases. A 2007 case involving a youth minister who allegedly sexually abused two minors at St. Raphael’s parish in East Meadow ended with an $11.45 million jury award to the victims, said Mones, who handled the case along with attorney Michael Dowd.


By Bart Jones

Bart Jones has covered religion, immigration and major breaking news at Newsday since 2000. A former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in Venezuela, he is the author of “HUGO! The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution.”

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Clergy abuse survivors propose $450M payout from Rockville Centre diocese

With the Long Island Catholic Church bankruptcy case at “loggerheads,” lawyers for clergy sexual abuse survivors Thursday proposed a settlement in which the diocese would pay at least $450 million to victims.

Hundreds of millions more would be paid out to survivors by church insurance companies, the attorneys said. They also cited filing documents listing the amount spent on legal fees by both sides at $56 million since the Diocese of Rockville Centre declared bankruptcy in October 2020.

In addition, attorneys filed court papers Thursday alleging that the diocese attempted to keep millions of dollars out of reach of survivors before they could sue under the 2019 Child Victims Act.

Some 620 childhood survivors of clergy sex abuse are waiting for the settlement by one of the largest Roman Catholic dioceses in the nation. Some of the abuse dates back decades.

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Reported Sexual Abuse at California Prep School Won’t Be Prosecuted

The school released a report last year that found widespread sexual abuse and harassment dating back decades. But local authorities concluded that several factors hampered their investigation.

Dec. 29, 2022


A criminal investigation into a private school in Ojai, Calif., facing decades of allegations of sexual misconduct has resulted in no criminal charges being filed after the authorities said that several factors hampered their efforts to hold potential predators accountable.

The coed Thacher School released a report through a private law firm last year that documented widespread sexual abuse and harassment on its campus dating back to the 1980s. Among the findings in the 91-page report was that a teacher raped a 16-year-old student, that a headmaster inappropriately touched students and parents, and that a college counselor groped a student.

Still, the Ventura County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices said in a joint statement issued Wednesday that they had examined about 100 cases of possible sexual abuse. They said that in most of the cases, two obstacles prevented investigators from pursuing criminal charges: the statute of limitations and the school’s decision to not immediately file reports to the sheriff’s office but to instead hire a private law firm to investigate dozens of instances of wrongdoing.

The law firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson of Los Angeles, interviewed more than 100 people for its report, including Thacher students, parents and faculty members. But in doing so, the firm and the school made detectives’ and prosecutors’ jobs more difficult because possible suspects declined to be interviewed.

“When suspects are alerted to potential crimes in a public report before law enforcement involvement, the likelihood of gathering statements from those suspects to corroborate or negate allegations becomes exceedingly difficult,” the authorities said in a statement.

The Thacher School said in a statement on Friday that it was grateful to the authorities “for the significant time and resources devoted to investigating allegations of sexual misconduct at Thacher.”

“Throughout the investigation, MTO and Thacher have continued to cooperate and share information with law enforcement,” the school said. “This has been done to support law enforcement’s efforts while working toward the release of public reports that provide transparency and accountability for what has occurred at the school. Doing so has allowed Thacher to learn from its past, provide better support for survivors, and implement safety enhancements to keep students safe.”

Munger, Tolles & Olson also did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday night.

The conclusion to the investigation, which was previously reported by The Ventura County Star, was a disappointment for victims, particularly those who again participated in interviews, this time with officers, to no avail, said Paul Mones, a lawyer for Jennifer Christiansen Vurno, a former high school student at Thacher.

Ms. Christiansen Vurno, 44, said in an interview that she was sexually assaulted numerous times by a former employee who was a counselor, coach and administrator at Thacher.

“It threw my life just up in the air,” Ms. Christiansen Vurno said of being interviewed by investigators about her experiences. “I am a mother of three children, and I was really, really sick. It was really hard for me to go back and do this. And yet, I had to.”

After being interviewed by officials, she said she had held out hope that something would come from victims’ sharing what had happened to them at the college preparatory school for grades nine through 12 in Ojai, a city of about 7,400 in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles.

“I just can’t even believe that there’s no way to hold them criminally accountable for what happened,” Ms. Christiansen Vurno said.

She said that the report from the school also helped prevent other victims from speaking about their experiences with county officials because it is difficult to share such traumatic memories repeatedly.

“I know a lot of survivors, myself as well, it was really difficult to go through it again,” she said.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices said that “despite the lack of charges in this case, victims of previously unreported sexual assault crimes at Thacher or elsewhere are strongly encouraged to report these crimes to law enforcement.”

The offices added that schools that are notified about past sexual assault allegations should contact law enforcement as quickly as possible.

The district attorney’s office, which investigated whether school administrators had failed to report possible abuse, said that while it had identified more than 50 instances of such possible failure, the statute of limitation had expired for most of those cases. In the other cases, the employees had not been aware of the abuse or there was no crime to report, the office said. Sometimes, reports had been made to law enforcement, the office added.

The challenge posed to officials in this case by the statute of limitations underscored how, across the country, time-limiting laws prevent scores of sexual assault cases from being prosecuted, in spite of persuasive evidence.

“This is not a California problem,” Mr. Mones said. “This is a national problem.”

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Former Student Files Lawsuit over Alleged Sexual Abuse at Thacher School

“I’m here because I’m a victim survivor of child sexual assault perpetrated on the Thacher School campus by my high school soccer coach, teacher, college advisor, John Friborg,” said Jennifer Christiansen Vurno, a former student at the elite Ojai boarding school, at a news conference on November 30. “I have suffered every day since the day John Friborg first sexually assaulted me on the Thacher campus. I have never been the same.”

Long before allegations detailing decades of sexual abuse at Thacher School were revealed in a report released last year, Vurno was a varsity soccer player in her senior year at Thacher in 1996. Vurno, now 44 years old and living in Washington, is suing the school for “[failing] to protect her from sexual abuse and harassment,” alleging that John Friborg groped her multiple times, kissed her, and digitally penetrated her when she was 17 on campus, both in his home and his vehicle. The civil complaint, filed in Ventura County Superior Court, asks for a jury trial, appropriate statutory damages, and costs.

The complaint alleges that before Vurno enrolled at Thacher School in 1992, the school hired Friborg despite the administration, including the headmaster, having known that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female student at the Massachusetts private school where he previously worked as a teacher and soccer coach. She said that Friborg had even admitted “to a school administrator that he had dated a female high school soccer player at his previous high school, the Governor’s Academy.”

During her first three years at Thacher, Vurno explained she had come to trust the faculty at the prestigious boarding school, which parents today pay nearly $65,000 a year for their children to attend. Vurno said the reason she did not come forward initially was because she was “embarrassed and fearful” of what would happen if she did report the abuse; however, in the aftermath of a 2021 report commissioned by the school revealing numerous sexual misconduct allegations at Thacher, she was motivated to come forward.

“In my senior year, at a most desperate and struggling moment, I went to John Friborg to seek help,” Vurno said, close to tears as she spoke. “I looked to him for guidance and care, trusting completely in his ability to help and support me. But this was not the case. He took the trust and belief and used it against me as a tool to perpetrate the most heinous crime of sexual violence against my 17-year-old self.”

As alleged in the complaint, Vurno is not the only student to have been assaulted by Friborg, nor is Friborg the only perpetrator named among Thacher’s former faculty. Her lawsuit against Thacher is at least the second since the school commissioned and released a 91-page report in 2021 that identified six alleged perpetrators and multiple victims of sexual misconduct at the school, including Vurno, as well as efforts by the former administration to cover up the complaints and blame the teenage victims.

“The problems caused by John Friborg’s sexual assaults of me were compounded by the silence and inaction of the school,” Vurno said. “I lost the sense that I could expect I would be protected from harm…He was protected, and I was abandoned, cast aside. The school’s silence condoned his actions and ignored the existence of the devastating pain and destruction left upon me and the other victims.”

Several other complaints against Friborg surfaced in 1997, following which Friborg resigned, and, according to Vurno’s attorney, Paul Mones, “To the best of our knowledge, no further investigation was done.”

Following the report’s release in June 2021, the Ventura County Reporter relayed that “Friborg worked at two other schools after Thacher,” and, in a letter to investigators, “Friborg stated he regrets his ‘transgression’ and feels ‘deep shame and regret … I have been very happily married for over 22 years, have a daughter in college, and live now in a quiet, simple retirement where the garden or a walk is generally the most exciting part of my days. That is enough.’”

The 2021 report, compiled by lawyers from the Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, found that Friborg targeted three other student victims at Thacher, in addition to Vurno, having allegedly groomed the students, massaged them, and molested them.

According to the report, former Thacher head Michael Mulligan, who led the school from 1992 to 2018, worked with Friborg at the Governor’s Academy and reported to the headmaster of the academy that Friborg was having an inappropriate relationship with a senior on the girls’ soccer team.

“The June 2021 report also stated that Mulligan discovered the relationship when he noticed Friborg and the senior girls spending too much time together,” Mones said. “Mr. Friborg was asked to leave the Governor’s Academy as a result of the report by Mr. Mulligan.”

In an interview for the report, Mulligan stated that he supported Friborg’s hiring at Thacher, even though he knew of his prior history, but, in hindsight, he now “wishes he had worked to prevent the hiring and very much regrets that he did not do so.” According to the report, Mulligan said that it was inconceivable to him that Friborg would again “make the same mistake that he had made before.”

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Child sex-abuse victims battle time, money in effort to hold suspects accountable. These laws can help.

A patchwork of statutes of limitations in the U.S. means a victim of childhood sex abuse may be able to sue in Maine but not Michigan. But advocates say much progress has been made.

Amanda Lee Myers | USA TODAY

By the time Jennifer Christiansen Vurno recognized the trauma of her sexual abuse as a teenager and found the courage to come forward, it was too late for criminal charges to be filed.

She was 43 and had missed California’s criminal statute of limitations by just three years.

But because of a growing movement to allow survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice decades after their assaults, Vurno was able to file a lawsuit against the exclusive California private school where she said she was abused.

“To get to this point, I had to really come to terms with what happened to me was wrong,” Vurno told USA TODAY shortly after filing the lawsuit. USA TODAY doesn’t typically name sexual assault survivors but Vurno said she wanted to go public to encourage others to speak up.

Vurno herself was inspired by the victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and former University of Southern California gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall.

“Each one of them that came forward gave me the strength to recognize that what happened to me was not only not okay, but it was criminal … and then realizing that there is a reason why I was suffering so badly,” she said.

The Thacher School: Decades of abuse uncovered but unpunished at exclusive California private school

By filing the lawsuit, Vurno hopes to hold the school accountable and find healing in finally being able to stand up in court and call out her abuser.

But that’s not an option for many other victims.

Civil lawsuits for survivors of childhood sex abuse are only available in a select number of states, and even then mostly only temporarily, creating a patchwork of accountability for child predators and the institutions that protect them.

‘Voiceless’ victims speak up

The average age of survivors to disclose their abuse is 52, according to CHILD USA, a think tank that focuses on preventing child abuse and neglect.

Many survivors never disclose their abuse because of deep trauma and shame, said Marci Hamilton, an expert on statutes of limitation who has been tracking such legislation for two decades with CHILD USA.

“It is one of those crimes that’s almost like murder in the fact that the victim is rendered voiceless and the perpetrators benefit from short statutes of limitation to continue to keep them silent,” she said.

Across the country, only two states have completely eliminated their civil statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims. Vermont got rid of its statute in 2019. And last year, so did Maine – three men and a woman there filed lawsuits this week against the Roman Catholic Diocese stemming from alleged abuse as far back as the 1950s.

Vermont and Maine are part of a movement that began in the early 2000s following the Boston Globe’s investigation that uncovered sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

California was the first state to pass legislation that temporarily reopened the civil statute of limitations, giving abuse survivors a one-year window to sue in 2002, opening a floodgate of 850 lawsuits against the Catholic Church. Three hundred others filed lawsuits against other churches and institutions, including the Boy Scouts.

This is their playbook: The Catholic Church and Boy Scouts are lobbying against child abuse statutes

Since then, similar windows have opened up in states including Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey. California and Hawaii have opened windows multiple times.

“Every single year gets better,” Hamilton said. “The future is that there’ll be no statues of limitations as a barrier in child sex abuse cases.”

‘Justice really depends on where you live’

In 2019, California once again opened a window for survivors of childhood sex abuse to file lawsuits. The window closes at the end of the year, on Dec. 31.

Vurno filed her lawsuit in November, just 46 days before the deadline. She sued the Thacher School in Ojai, saying the institution knowingly hired a sexual predator who went on to repeatedly abuse her when she was just 17.

Her attorney, Paul Mones, said his office has seen “a big onslaught” of potential clients trying to file before the end of the month.

In Ohio: Former Boy Scouts push for new law as they seek relief for child sex abuse

At this point, given some of the vetting that’s needed before such a suit can be filed, “it’s very difficult to take any new cases,” he said.

“A lot of people will be unable to file their cases because they didn’t act in time,” said Mones, who has represented sex abuse victims in more than 40 states.

And then there are the people in more than two dozen states who can’t file at all.

“Justice really depends on where you live,” he said.

Mones, other attorneys who represent sex abuse victims and survivor advocates hope to see more statutes fall, but some powerful forces have created hurdles.

A USA TODAY investigation in 2019 found that many special interests have effectively opposed efforts to give survivors more time to sue. The most powerful opponents include the insurance industry, the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, who collectively have had to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for abuse claims.

Their arguments have centered on calling such legislation unfair.

In 2018, the Most Rev. Wilton Gregory, then-archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said lawsuits against institutions for decades-old abuse are “very difficult if not impossible to defend.”

That concern was repeated by Boy Scouts of America lobbyist Edward Lindsey.

“Time corrodes evidence,” Lindsey told Georgia’s Senate Judiciary Committee. “You wait 20, 30, 40 years before you bring a suit, you make it very difficult on a defendant to defend himself.”

Taking back control

The lobbying has caused some victims’ attorneys and advocates to fear ever completely eliminating statutes of limitations, but there’s plenty of reason to hope.

It’s not just about money. It’s about what’s right, they say.

For many victims whose cases are too old to pursue criminal charges, civil lawsuits allow them to get in the driver’s seat, high-profile California attorney Allred told USA TODAY.

“Civil actions are extremely important because they are very empowering,” she said. “It’s very important to be able to have a victim know that she has control. Control is something she lost when she was victimized.”

Includes reporting from Marisa Kwiatkowski and John Kelly.

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2nd former student sues elite California boarding school alleging decades-old sex abuse

A second former student has sued an exclusive private school in Southern California, saying its administrators knowingly hired a sexual predator who went on to repeatedly abuse her.

Jennifer Christiansen Vurno of Washington announced Wednesday that she is suing The Thacher School in Ojai for negligence, and sexual assault and harassment.

Vurno, 44, said she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a soccer coach in 1996 when she was 17 years old, and that the school knew the coach was a predator when he was hired nearly a decade earlier.

USA TODAY doesn’t typically name sexual assault survivors but Vurno said she wanted to go public to encourage others to speak up.

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Ex-UCLA gynecologist James Heaps guilty of sexually abusing patients

A Los Angeles County jury on Thursday convicted former UCLA gynecologist Dr. James Heaps of sexually abusing female patients.

Prosecutors portrayed Heaps as exploiting his position as a renowned cancer specialist to prey on the most vulnerable women during his 35 years associated with UCLA. Hundreds of accusers have been paid nearly $700 million by UCLA in the largest sexual abuse settlement involving a public university.

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Read Paul’s comments to Newsday on the Diocese of Rockville Centre bankruptcy

Two years after the Roman Catholic Church on Long Island became the largest diocese in the nation to declare bankruptcy, none of the hundreds of clergy sex abuse cases filed against the church has been settled.

That has some survivors and their attorneys saying it is adding to the pain and injury the victims suffered as children years or even decades ago.

“They declared bankruptcy and said they wanted to see the victims adequately compensated,” said Paul Mones, an attorney who is representing some of the survivors. “People who suffered continue to suffer through these legal machinations that they are forced to go through.”

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