Thursday, February 24, 2011

Church sued
Church sued over 1975 sexual abuse allegation
By Jack Moran

The Register-Guard

Published: Thursday, Feb 24, 2011 05:02AM


Attorneys on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit seeking $5 million on behalf of a man who claims to have been molested in Lane County as a child by a Seventh-day Adventist Church youth group leader from Veneta who faced similar accusations involving young boys more than 30 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges that church officials failed to take action after the then-13-year-old victim told them in 1975 that he had been sexually abused by Les Bovee, who supervised a “Pathfinder Club” youth program offered through Junction City’s Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The boy attended the church with his family and alleges in the lawsuit that Bovee abused him during Pathfinder Club events.

Bovee is not named as a defendant in the case. Instead, the man is suing five church entities — including the General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists, the church’s international governing body.

“We really don’t think the problem was with Les Bovee. It was with the church,” said Steve Crew, a Portland attorney who is representing the man in the lawsuit.

“It was up to the church to protect (the victim), and they didn’t,” Crew said.

The lawsuit states that sometime in 1975, the victim reported the alleged abuse to church officials. They determined his claim to be unfounded and allowed Bovee to continue supervising the youth group, Crew said.

In 1980, Bovee faced separate trials in three cases in which boys accused him of molesting them. One of the cases involved a youth who said he was sodomized by Bovee during a Pathfinder outing at Honeyman State Park near Florence in 1977.

A Lane County jury convicted Bovee of sodomy in that case, but the state Court of Appeals later overturned the conviction after ruling that a judge allowed inadmissible evidence to be presented during the trial.

In another case, Bovee was convicted of sodomizing a boy in 1976. That conviction also was reversed by the appeals court, which found that prosecutors failed to file their case against Bovee within a three-year statute of limitations.

A jury acquitted Bovee of sodomy in the third case.

The man whose attorneys filed the lawsuit on Tuesday was not one of Bovee’s alleged victims in the earlier criminal cases, Crew said.

Garrett Caldwell, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists’ public relations director, referred questions regarding the lawsuit to Steve Vistaunet, a spokesman with the North Pacific Union Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists in Ridgefield, Wash. Vistaunet did not return a telephone message on Wednesday.

The suit identifies the victim only as C.B., and states that he was born in 1962.

The man did not file the lawsuit earlier because he only recently began dealing with issues related to his childhood abuse, Crew said.

The victim is seeking $5 million for pain and suffering, physical and emotional trauma and permanent psychological damage. He is asking for an additional $250,000 to cover past and future costs of psychiatric and psychological treatment.

The victim’s attorneys also intend to seek punitive damages against the church and its entities, according to the suit.

Crew is an attorney with O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP, which has previously filed child sexual abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church.

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