Lawyers representing the Watchtower Society, want a child molestation case filed in Oregon in December 2014, to be heard in federal court. It is unclear why, but it may be so that the statute of limitations can be used in an attempt to block abuse survivors being heard.
On March 25, 2015, the organization filed a “notice of removal” in Multnomah County Circuit Court to have the case processed in federal district court, where it is presently pending.
On Monday April 6, 2015, the plaintiff’s legal team plan to file a request to remand the case back to state court.
Kristian Roggendorf of Roggendorf Law in Lake Oswego is serving as local counsel alongside the Zalkin Law Firm. They are representing the plaintiffs Velicia Alston and an unnamed man who is using the pseudonym “John Roe.”
Daniel Castellanos, a ministerial servant in the North Hillsboro Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, allegedly molested the plaintiffs in 1986 and 1987.
The court papers claim Castellanos fondled Velicia Alston under her clothes during piano lessons he taught at his house. She told her mother, who then spoke to the congregation elders who told her to remain quiet, and not to go to the police.
The lawsuit asks for over $5 million damages for Alston.
Castellano also allegedly abused Roe, then 8 to 10 years old. “The abuse included fondling and masturbation of [Roe’s] genitals both above and beneath his clothing.”
Attorneys are also seeking over $5 million damages for the plaintiff Roe.
Castellanos was “disfellowshipped” by the congregation elders for three years and was then re-instated as a member.
Irwin Zalkin said at a press conference at the time of the first filing, in December, “the problem is, the leaders never informed the congregation why he was punished, so now no one but the elders can ever know that there is a child predator lurking in that congregation.”
The lawsuit also claims that Castellanos sexually abused other Jehovah’s Witnesses children during the same period and that the defendants failed to report him to the police or warn other parents, even after learning of the abuse.
Oregon state law allows alleged victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits up until age 40 or within five years of when they realize the damaging effect the abuse has had on their lives.
Velicia Alston was 39 at the time of the lawsuit’s original filing.
Velicia said, she chose to use her name and speak to reporters at the press conference held in December 2014, because she wants to give victims a voice.
She said even though she may be shunned by Jehovah’s Witnesses for speaking out and filing a civil case she hopes that the leadership will change the policies that allow perpetrators to be hidden within congregations.
Hillsboro Tribune – Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse case in feds’ hands Link
Raw Story – Jehovah’s Witnesses conspired to hide sexual predators in their congregations: lawsuit Link
Zalkin Law Firm Link