Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Group leader sued

Parker Hill, ex-youth group leader sued by parents of molested boy
By Joe McDonald (Staff Writer)Published: December 22, 2010

The parents of a teenage boy who was molested by a former church youth group leader sued Parker Hill Community Church and the former youth leader Tuesday in Lackawanna County Court.

The former youth leader, Joshua W. Landis, was sentenced in October by Judge Michael J. Barrasse to 12-to-60 months in state prison for unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor. Judge Barrasse classified Mr. Landis as a sexually violent predator.

The suit, filed by Scranton attorney Kevin P. Foley, claims the church fostered an atmosphere in which Mr. Landis "felt he could engage in sexual abuse of children without fear of being investigated, disciplined or referred for criminal prosecution."

Before joining Parker Hill, Mr. Landis was a member of Union Center Christian Church in Endicott, N.Y., where he was a youth minister responsible for a small group of boys to mentor and chaperone for Bible study and recreational activities, according to the suit.

While in New York, the suit states, Mr. Landis provided alcohol and cigars to minors at his home in Whitney Point, N.Y., in the fall and winter of 2005-2006.

He also had "inappropriate contact" with a minor, and Mr. Landis was later dismissed from the church and told to have no contact with any children and advised to undergo counseling, the suit states. New York State Police charged Mr. Landis with unlawful dealing with a child. He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

While the investigation was pending in New York, the suit states, Mr. Landis moved to Clarks Summit and joined Parker Hill. According to the suit, Mr. Landis told Parker Hill he was receiving counseling to address the issues that caused him to leave New York. The suit also suggests church officials in New York told Parker Hill about Mr. Landis' sexual tendencies toward boys.

Yet, the suit states, Parker Hill permitted Mr. Landis to serve in a leadership role to teenage boys.

The suit states Parker Hill did not perform a criminal records check on Mr. Landis until "long after" appointing him a youth minister.

While a youth minister, the suit states, Mr. Landis "groomed" a teenage boy for sex by lavishing him with expensive gifts, including a Macintosh computer and an iPhone.

The suit identifies the victim and his parents by initials only. The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

In the fall of 2009, the suit states, Mr. Landis attempted to have sexual contact with the teen.

The suit states Mr. Landis was finally removed from the church Jan. 28, three months after the abuse had occurred.

The suit seeks unspecified damages from Mr. Landis and the church.

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