The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010
For more information: David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566 9790 cell, Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Coordinator (314) 862 7688
New sex lawsuit targets Columbia-based agency
Admitted child molester was also with St. Joe church
Clergy abuse victims challenge non-profit to do outreach
A group of clergy sex abuse victims announced a new civil lawsuit against a Columbia non-profit and a St. Joseph church. It alleges that both institutions could have prevented a man from molesting a young girl.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests disclosed the suit yesterday at a news conference in St. Joseph.
Defendants include OATS Inc. of Columbia, New Life Church in St. Joseph and Mike Landy. Last month, Landy pled guilty to child sex abuse. He worked for OATS and was an elder in the church.
“We applaud the brave young woman who reported these horrific crimes and cooperated with law enforcement so he could be brought to justice,” said David Clohessy, national director SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). “But since the predator will do little jail time, he’ll have more chances to hurt kids, so that’s why more action is needed.”
"Specifically, we beg others who saw, suspected or suffered Landy’s crimes to call police," said Clohessy. "And we want officials with the agency and the church to use their resources to seek out others who many have been assaulted by Landy."
Landy is represented by attorney Philip Shelley of St. Joseph (816-232-2033)and Steve Scott of Columbia, MO (573-442-7268). His victim is represented by attorney Rebecca Randles and Sarah Brown of Kansas City (816 510 2704 cell, 816 931 9901).
Lawsuit filed against Landy, church, OATS in abuse case
Members of a sexual abuse support group arrived in St. Joseph last month to deliver a letter to New Life Bible Church.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) came on behalf of a victim who suffered through four years of sexual abuse at the hands of Mike Landy, an elder in the church. Barbara Dorris, the victims’ outreach director for SNAP, said members of New Life agreed to distribute the letter and meet with SNAP about outreach and support to other potential victims.
But SNAP hasn’t heard back from the church, which is located on Pacific Street by the Belt Highway and U.S. Highway 36, in about a month. That meeting never materialized.
On Tuesday, the victim’s representatives returned to St. Joseph with a paper message the church can’t ignore. Kansas City attorneys Sarah Brown and Rebecca Randles filed a lawsuit in Buchanan County Circuit Court against Mr. Landy, New Life and OATS Inc., a transportation service that employed Mr. Landy.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, in addition to attorneys fees.
“We will ask for something that will definitely compensate her for her lost youth,” Ms. Randles told the News-Press on Tuesday.
Ms. Randles said the lawsuit only seeks financial compensation, but her hope is to negotiate with the defendants to put in place other measures that prevent future abuse.
“That’s why (the victim) is doing this,” Ms. Randles said. “She wants to make sure that no one else goes through what she’s gone through.”
Mr. Landy pleaded guilty in circuit court in October to sexually abusing the victim from 1996 to 1999. The abuse started when she was 13 and Mr. Landy was 43. Judge Dan Kellogg sentenced Mr. Landy, now 57, to seven years in prison, then suspended the execution of that sentence in lieu of five years of probation and 120 days of shock detention.
Mr. Landy continues to serve that shock time.
The victim’s petition claims the abuse took place at Mr. Landy’s St.
Joseph house, the victim’s home, the church and OATS’ local facility on the Belt Highway. She met Mr. Landy at the church, and he then employed her as a volunteer at OATS.
The lawsuit alleges the church provided facilities and materials to aid Mr. Landy’s abuse and accuses members of the congregation of not intervening or reporting Mr. Landy when they had knowledge of inappropriate conduct involving the victim.
Ms. Dorris, who lives in St. Louis, drove across the state again Tuesday to help deliver the message. In an interview in the snowy, empty parking lot of New Life, she said the church’s head minister at the time of the abuse told Mr. Landy to stop interacting with the victim because it seemed inappropriate.
Mr. Dorris also alleged that Mr. Landy confessed his love for the victim to employees at OATS.
“They supported the predator,” Ms. Dorris said. “At that point, responsibly, you should say there is something wrong with this situation.”
Ms. Dorris expressed concern that OATS and New Life’s actions silenced other victims from coming forward. “I am here saying, ‘We as a society have to protect the innocent and the vulnerable,’” she said.
When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Pat Fisher, one of the church’s leaders, according to SNAP, said she didn’t have any comment.
OATS also had no comment. OATS confirmed last month that Mr. Landy no longer is employed there, but wouldn’t comment on whether that had to do with his guilty plea.
R.J. Cooper can be reached at email@example.com
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests