The Jehovah’s Witness church was handed a partial victory in court. The organization is locked in another in a long string of legal battles that tests the ugly assertion that the group allows pedophiles and child molesters to run loose in its ranks.
In this particular case, two women charge that they were molested by a church leader when they were younger. Annessa Lewis and her sister Miranda allege that they were members of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Bellows Falls, Vermont in the early 1990s when they encountered Norton True. They allege that while Norton True was in the position of “ministerial servant” in the congregation, he fondled both sisters on several occasions. Both girls were minors at the time.
The sisters are now suing the Bellows Falls congregations, as well as the legal entity that heads the Jehovah’s Witnesses — The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. They say that both entities ignored their reports of abuse.
“These very courageous and brave young women have decided that they need to do something about what happened to them as children that has been kept silent by the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” San Diego attorney Irwin Zalkin said when the lawsuit was filed in 2014.
In the course of the court battle, Annessa Lewis’ attorneys introduced certain legal theories, including breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, ratification, and fraud by omission.
But the case received a setback recently when U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha dismissed some of the positions the Lewis case was standing on.
Attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, one Pietro Lynn, of Lynn, Lynn & Blackman in Burlington spoke of the dismissal.
“We are very pleased with the court’s ruling,” Lynn said. “We expect that once the facts of the case are known that the court will dismiss the rest of the case.”
“We will vigorously defend my clients [the Jehovah’s Witnesses] in this case,” he said. “We believe the evidence will support the defense and, ultimately, we will prevail.”
As for Norton True, the man at the center of the case, he has his own attorney. But rather than seeking to win on the merits of his defense, his attorneys are also trying to have the case dismissed on the technicality that the two sisters may have waited too long to file a legal complaint. If they waited longer than six years past their 18th birthday, they may not be able to seek legal relief.