This was the lawsuit in Amarillo, Texas brought against the abuser Larry Kelly, the Watchtower Society, and two local congregations in Dumas and Amarillo by Love and Norris which was recently 'dismissed with prejudice' with a confidentiality agreement or 'gag order' attached. Being dismissed with prejudice means the plaintiff cannot bring the case to court again. There are many reasons why a case is dismissed with prejudice some of which are if the plaintiff has shown bad faith, misled the court, persisted in filing frivolous lawsuits, or settled out of court. It has been widely circulated and reported that there was a monetary settlement out of court and that was the reason the case was dismissed with prejudice but that has not been confirmed although the gag order makes that seem very likely.
At any rate, opposers have claimed this case, along with the other 6 recently settled cases, involved millions of dollars. When you read the documented evidence and court rulings on this case, you will no doubt agree that it is highly unlikely that the settlement was for a large sum of money anywhere close to millions of dollars and you will be shocked to find out that the settlement could not have included the Watchtower Society at all.
According to a Texas law article called Divining Liability by attorney Mark Donald, dated May 5, 2004: "The plaintiff (Amy B.) alleges the following in her Third Amended Petition: Kelley held the position of elder in the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Dumas until 1985 when he exploited that position by sexually abusing children in the congregation. When the Watchtower defendants learned what Kelley was doing, the Dumas congregation disciplined him, although the defendants "concealed the crime from law enforcement." Kelley later moved to an Amarillo congregation, which knew about his past, but kept the information confidential.
...the plaintiff contends that Amarillo elders appointed Kelley to the position of "leading out for service," the door-to-door proselytizing for which Jehovah's Witnesses are most visible. An 8-year-old Amy B. did her "service" with Kelley, and was instructed to help his disabled wife at their home, as alleged in the petition. While there and in service, Amy B. testified in her deposition, Larry Kelley "sexually molested me ... on numerous occasions."
The law article states that according to Amy B.'s attorney, Hartley Hampton, she "told the church elders about the abuse." And "She also reported it to the Amarillo Police Department." The article continues: "In 1992, police filed a case of indecency with a child related to Amy B. to which Kelley pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to "shock probation,"...and then received a 10-year probated sentence."
Additional claims are also made according to the Moore County News-Press/July 24, 2003 by Lauri Zachry. It is stated there that: "The suit said the Dumas congregation gave Kelley "the specific assignment of instructing and supervising children in the congregation." He coordinated a children's puppet show to "instruct and attract Jehovah's Witness children".... Watchtower then transferred Kelley to the Amarillo-Southwest congregation and he became a ministerial servant. He was responsible for the children of the congregation. Amy B. attended the Amarillo-Southwest congregation when she was eight years old and is now 23 years old. The suit said this is when the alleged sexual abuse began for her. The suit said the plaintiff was allegedly abused from 1988-1992....The original suit said the Watchtower defendants have prohibited the victim from warning the others or speaking about the matter to anyone under penalty of discipline. The suit also claims for five years the organizations knew about the alleged abuse within the congregation and failed to act."
Ronald T. Spriggs, who represented Larry Kelly in the lawsuit, denies many of the allegations. Spriggs filed an answer to the allegations made in behalf of Larry Kelly. In the brief it is denied that his client had any responsibility in the Amarillo congregation. According to the article by Lauri Zachry quoted above, "The brief states when he committed his only indecency with a child offense in Dumas it was not with a young girl from the Dumas congregation, but it was with a girl who lived in Amarillo. Kelley said in the brief "I felt such disgust for my behavior that I went to the elders of the Dumas congregation the next day and confessed what I had done." Kelley said in the Dumas congregation he served as an elder, but was never given the specific assignment of instructing and supervising children in the congregation...The brief said he was removed immediately from all positions of authority and was forbidden to make any comment at any meeting. He said he was then instructed to go to his wife and to the girl's parents and tell them what he had done....In Kelley's brief, he said he wasn't transferred by the Watchtower defendants, but he moved to Amarillo for business reasons...."I don't intend to minimize my offense, but plaintiff implies abuse took place from 1988 through 1992. There were only two instances of sexual misconduct," Kelley's brief said. "
As we see much of the evidence is conflicting and some of the claims are downright outlandish. Anyone associated or familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses knows right away that some of the claims made in the petition by the plaintiff do not have the ring of truth. For example, we know that the puppet show that Kelly conducted was not a Watchtower sponsored event as implied in one of the petitions nor is any elder given a special assignment of supervising children as if he is some kind of Sunday school teacher. The petition by the plaintiff also leads one to believe that Amy B. was given a special assignment by the congregation elders to look after Kelly's disabled wife. No such assignments are made by elders on personal matters such as that.
One article says the suit claims he was appointed a ministerial servant in Amarillo while the other article only claims that he led the group in service. Larry Kelly himself denies that he was a ministerial servant in the Amarillo congregation. One article says that the Watchtower transferred Kelly to the Amarillo congregation seeming to imply that like the Catholic Church, Jehovah's Witnesses merely transfer molesters to other congregations and allow them to continue in their position of responsibility. That of course has never been the Watchtower policy. Even in the petition by the plaintiff, it is admitted and Kelly concurs that he was reproved and removed of all responsibilities. And Kelly also says he moved to Amarillo for business reasons not because the Watchtower Society transferred him there.
As for the claims made against the Dumas congregation, Amy B. did not even attend the Dumas congregation and they had nothing to do with that case. Kelly being an elder when he was in the Dumas congregation, before confessing to an earlier child abuse incident, is irrelevant to the case altogether. The Dumas congregation reproved and removed all responsibilities from Kelly after he confessed to that abuse incident. And as for the claim made concerning that incident, that the Dumas elders 'concealed the crime from law enforcement', Texas law at the time did not require mandatory reporting. Therefore even if the incident was not reported to the police by the Dumas elders there was no negligence or concealing crime on their part. How could the Dumas congregation possibly be guilty of negligence in the case?
As for the Amarillo congregation, they did not appoint Kelly as a servant in the congregation nor would they have made assignments to a young girl, like Amy B., to look after others in the congregation. And the Amarillo congregational elders certainly did not appoint him to be 'responsible for the children' as the suit claims. It is also claimed that Amy B. was told by the Amarillo elders not to report it to the police or she would receive congregational discipline and yet Kelly was indeed reported to the police and was convicted. As we have shown the Watchtower Society has never had a policy to discipline members for reporting crime to the police.
So as we see there are many discrepancies and many claims that just do not fit with what Jehovah's Witnesses teach and believe. The case certainly appears to be exaggerated. Some of the discrepancies involve the he-said, she-said scenario and of course there is no way of knowing who is telling the truth since as we know the case never went to trial and thus testimony of all those involved is lacking.
But here is the real shocker that you probably have not heard. There was an article by Jim McBride of the Amarillo Globe News concerning the lawsuit. The title of the article was: "Jehovah's Witnesses national groups dropped from suit". What does that mean? The report continues: "A sex abuse lawsuit against Jehovah's Witnesses groups in Amarillo and Dumas will go to trial in the wake of a judge's ruling, but national Jehovah's Witnesses groups from New York and Pennsylvania have been removed from the suit." Thats right. What you haven't been told and what opposers do not want you to know is that the Watchtower Society was removed from the suit. How so?
On March 29, 2004, Judge Pirtle granted summary judgment for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of both New York and Pennsylvania.This means that Judge Pirtle dismissed them from the case. Judge Pirtle stated, "...the court must consider whether or not one party had superior knowledge of the potential risks, and, the court must consider the nature and the extent, if any, of the right or ability to control the conduct of the alleged wrongdoer." In view of this Pirtle ruled that no legal duty could be imposed on the Watchtower Society.
So while we have no way of knowing the amount of the settlement, one thing we do know for sure is that the corporation of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society paid nothing since they were dismissed from the case. Without the deep pockets of the Watchtower Society, it would seem that Love and Norris and Amy B. had no alternative but to settle, even if it meant accepting a 'gag order'. The payoff to continue the suit, even if won, would likely not justify spending the amount of money necessary to continue. And it seems reasonable to believe that the bulk of any money paid, if not all, would rest squarely on the shoulders of the one responsible for the molesting in the first place and that would be Larry Kelly, the abuser himself, not the Dumas or Amarillo congregations and certainly not the Watchtower Society since they had previously been dismissed as defendants.
Chapter Twenty-four: Who Has a Better Policy?