AR - Group cancels fundraiser for criminal

Group cancels controversial fundraiser

Victims & advocates called event “callous

It was intended to help a convicted teacher

She refused to report suspected child sex crimes

Organizations wanted bishop to denounce the event

Advocates: “Public displays of support for proven molesters is wrong

It deters other victims of other child sex crimes from speaking up, groups say

For immediate release:  Friday, October 18, 2013

For more information: Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com), David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

A group of Little Rock Catholics has cancelled a fundraising event for a teacher convicted of refusing to report suspected child sex crimes.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was notified of the cancellation by a call and email from Stuart Hiserodt (512-482-0040), a Texas lawyer representing one of the event’s organizers. (A copy of the email, received late yesterday, is below.)

SNAP and NSAC, the National Survivors Action Coalition, had harshly criticized the event as “hurting at least one child sex abuse victim and deters other child sex abuse victims from speaking up.” They had written Little Rock’s Catholic bishop urging him to “rein in” his flock and discourage attendance and future such events.

The fundraiser was to happen tomorrow and benefit Kathy Gene Griffin, a former Mount St. Mary (MSM) teacher who was found guilty last month of failing to report known or suspected child sex crimes by a fellow teacher, Kelly O’Rourke, to authorities.

http://www.evite.com/event/0222HNB4ULB2RUZLSEPDFHHASS6PPI

Called “We Believe in Kathy Griffin,” the gathering was to be hosted two parents of current MSM students. (http://www.arkansas-catholic.org/news/article/2935)

“We’re glad this event won’t happen. It would have just added to the pain that child sex abuse victims already feel,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “Griffin clearly covered up child sex crimes. It’s been proven in court. She’s not even appealing her conviction. So we feel it’s callous to publicly raising money for a proven criminal who hurt a teenager.”

"Victims who’ve been sexually violated by Catholic employees should not have to see or hear about Catholics publicly raising money for a convicted criminal who stayed silent about suspected child sex crimes," said Kris Ward of NSAC. "High ranking Catholic officials can and should prevent – or at least publicly denounce - this kind of incredibly insensitive and intimidating behavior.”

Some SNAP members had called Cotham’s in the City in Little Rock, where the event was to take place, and urged them to stop it.

SNAP and NSAC had asked Arkansas' Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor to

-- forbid Catholic employees from attending Griffin’s fundraiser,

-- post and distribute copies of a brochure called “What to do when your colleague is accused,” and

--“do all he can” to prevent others from holding similar events supporting those convicted of committing or concealing child sex crimes, and

-- aggressively reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by the two teachers or any other Catholic employee in the state.

And people who want to support either of the convicted teachers “should do so privately through letters to the judge and not publicly “in ways that scare and depress other child sex abuse victims into staying silent,” the letter to Taylor said.

O'Rourke is being held behind bars from now until her sentencing hearing on October 28. In January 2013, O'Rourke pled guilty to sexually abusing an MSM student.

http://www.arkansasmatters.com/story/former-coach-convicted-of-sexually-assaulting-student-going-back-to-jail/d/story/lftx6N1WWUaTD2JGRh-cB

Griffin’s backers on Facebook include Cari Caliva Britt, Bettye Francis, Dana Denise LaRue, Shelley Oberste Hanson, Becca Carle Austin, Lauren White Hamilton, Julie Schmidt Marlbrough, Paul Oberste, Margaret Cassidy Dearing, Stacey Fleming Hain, Mary Flo Ouellette, Jac Brubaker, Stephanie Benning and Eve Grieringer Jorgenson.

A Google search indicates that many of them have Catholic ties. Francis works at MSM and Britt is the wife of MSM teacher Brendan Britt. Dearing is past President of Mount Saint Mary's and chairs its Alumni Board.  Hanson, Ouellette, and Benning are MSM alums.

Other Griffin backers include Cheryl Carpenter, a former MSM teacher, and Jennifer Lasseter, a former MSM recruitment director.

On a Facebook page supporting Griffin, her supporters describe her as “sweet” and “amazing.” They are also collecting donations for “via PayPal or US Bank.”

https://www.facebook.com/supportcoachkathygriffin

Griffin now works for the Southwest Arkansas Development Council in Texarkana (headed by Sandra Patterson, http://swadc.com/contact/). She lives in Hope, Arkansas.

https://docsdms.pulaskiclerk.com/DocsDMS/Default.aspx?A=3/ck_image.present?DMS_ID=ZO7Q9EJPBS9N15MDKQ2ENP1C86SY74

Pulaski County Judge Barry Sims sentenced Griffin to a year’s probation and a $2,500 fine. Griffin’s lawyer is Jeff Rosenzweig (501 372 5247). The prosecutor is Teresa Ball (501 340 8000).

The “evite” for the event now reflects the cancellation. Here’s the cancellation email:

Stuart Hiserodt [mailto:stuarthiserodt@gmail.com]

Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 4:49 PM

To: Barbara Dorris

Subject: Re: Katie Escovedo

Yes, the event has been canceled.

Stuart Hiserodt

Stanfield Hiserodt PLLC

807 Brazos Street

Suite 404

Austin, Texas 7870

512-482-0040

shiserodt@sh-austin.com

www.sh-austin.com

www.austintechnologylawblog.com

NOTICE:  This message is confidential and intended only for the addressee(s).  It may contain material that is subject to the attorney-client privilege or that is attorney work product.  If you have received this message in error, please delete this message and call 512-482-0040.  Thanks.

And here’s the SNAP and NSAC letter to Taylor, sent earlier this week by email:

October 16, 2013

Dear Bishop Taylor:

Last month, Kathy Griffin was convicted and sentenced for refusing to promptly call authorities when she knew of or suspected child sex crimes at a Catholic school in your diocese.

And this Saturday, her backers – many of them Catholic - will hold a fundraising event for her.

We are worried about the child who was hurt longer because Griffin broke the law and stayed silence. We are also worried about other child sex abuse victims who will be discouraged and depressed – when they see adults publicly rallying around and raising money for a convicted criminal. And we are worried that ignoring this callous injustice will encourage others in the future to publicly back those who commit and conceal child sex crimes.

Imagine, Bishop, that you’re a 13 year old boy who’s being molested by his soccer coach or a 12 year old girl who’s being molested by her uncle. In each case, the predator tells the child “If you speak up, no one will listen or believe you. I’m a popular person around here. Everyone will think you’re lying or crazy.”

Then this Saturday, that boy or girl walks into Cotham’s in the City and sees signs, balloons and posters supporting Griffin. He or she asks “What’s the celebration about?” and learns that perhaps dozens of adults are publicly backing a former teacher who was found guilty in a court of law of endangering kids and hiding child sex crimes. Imagine how that boy or girl will feel. And imagine how unlikely it is that the boy or girl will find the courage and strength to speak up, call police, expose wrongdoers and protect others.

Let’s get more specific. One of your flock, an Arkansas Catholic girl, was hurt by Kelly O’Rourke, a teacher at a Catholic school in your diocese. That hurt likely went on longer because Griffin, another teacher at the same Catholic school in your diocese, stayed silent.

Imagine how this victim, her family and her friends will feel if they find out about this fundraiser? And when they realize that you could have done something but instead did nothing.

You can try to stop this. You can try to spare others more pain. If you try, you may even succeed. You can certainly denounce this publicly and deter people from attending. 

Bishop, this isn’t rocket science. It’s simple compassion. It’s simple justice. And it’s simple abuse prevention.

So we are asking you to take four steps.

-- publicly denounce the event this Saturday,

-- forbid Catholic employees from attending it,

--do all you can to prevent others from holding similar events supporting those convicted of committing or concealing child sex crimes, and

-- aggressively reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by the two teachers or any other Catholic employee in the state.

If your do nothing, you’re essentially siding with a criminal and re-victimizing a victim. Staying silent about such a callous event directly contradicts every pledge every made by every bishop to treat child sex abuse victims with compassion.

Whether intentional or not, this event sends a very strong message to any church employee who’s tempted to conceal child sex crimes: “You’ll be supported, no matter how egregious your wrongdoing is.”

Is that the message you want sent throughout your diocese?

Victims who’ve been sexually violated by Catholic employees should not have to see or hear about Catholics publicly raising money for a convicted criminal who stayed silent about suspected child sex crimes. Again, we urge you to at least publicly denounce this kind of incredibly insensitive and intimidating behavior.

People who want to support either Griffin should do so privately and not publicly “in ways that scare and depress other child sex abuse victims into staying silent.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)

David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Kris Ward of NSAC, National Survivors Action Coalition Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC), KristineWard@hotmail.com, 937-272-0308

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@SNAPNetwork tweeted this page. 2013-10-18 09:02:13 -0500
Our most powerful tool is the light of truth. Through our actions, we bring healing, prevention and justice.



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