HomeCity NewsJudge OKs $1M Settlement to Alleged Abuse Victim

Judge OKs $1M Settlement to Alleged Abuse Victim

By City News Service

A judge last week approved a summer youth camp’s proposal to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a 34-year-old man who sued the facility and the San Marino Unified School District, alleging the plaintiff was sexually abused by a choir teacher years earlier who also was a counselor at the camp.
The plaintiff is identified only as John Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed against the SMUSD, the River Way Ranch Camp in Sanger, east of Fresno, and the plaintiff’s alleged abuser.
On Wednesday (May 17), Judge Douglas Stern signed an order consenting to the $1 million payment to the plaintiff to settle his one negligence claim against the camp.
The defendant worked for about 12 years at River Way during the summer when he was not teaching at the SMUSD, according to the camp’s attorney’s court papers.
He was extremely popular, a crowd pleaser, and the reason why many students returned to the camp each summer, the camp’s attorney states.
River Way did not know the plaintiff was allegedly sexually abused in the summer of 2004 until the camp was served with the complaint in 2021, according to the camp’s attorney’s court papers, which further state that the facility “has always employed strict procedures and extensive training to protect minors at the camp to prevent the type of claim made by plaintiff in this case.”
According to the suit filed in April 2021, Doe began attending Huntington Middle School in the 6th-grade in the 2000-01 school year, during which he and other students went on a weeklong trip to River Way Ranch Camp.
The defendant, known as “Gizmo,” supervised the camp counselors and was a fan favorite among students, according to the suit.
He was hired that same school year at HMS and Doe, like other students, was “infatuated” with him, the suit states.
In the spring of his 6th-grade year, Doe and other science students went on a trip to Northern California and the defendant was one of the chaperones. On the last night, he went to Doe’s room, where the two talked about their shared love for singing and how the defendant wanted to start a choir program at HMS, according to the suit.
For the remainder of 6th-grade, Doe showed up early at school and stayed in the teacher’s classroom, despite a school policy prohibiting students from being in the school hallways before 7:50 a.m., the suit states.
The teacher allegedly continued to groom and manipulate Doe when the plaintiff reached the 7th-grade and made sure Doe was selected for the San Marino Chambers Singers group, which the teacher supervised, the suit states.
The defendant allegedly started to sexually abuse Doe on campus and off campus during 7th- and 8th-grade, often in the teacher’s classroom before school, according to the suit.
In the summer of 2003, just before Doe entered San Marino High School, he shared a cabin with the teacher, who sexually abused him nearly every day, the suit alleges.
The alleged sexual abuse continued into high school, where the teacher also taught a choir class, the suit states. The defendant allegedly also sexually molested Doe during high school-sanctioned trips.
Teachers at HMS and SMHS saw the defendant and Doe alone together in the teacher’s classroom many times and did nothing, the suit states. The teachers allegedly also observed the defendant giving Doe special attention and having lunch brought to him from off-campus restaurants.
“They noticed [the defendant] taking plaintiff home after choir practice and being in his hotel room late at night during out-of-town choir performances,” the suit states. “Despite this, they took no action.”


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