May 17, 2007
Coaches in abuse cases had legal troubles
Open Bible school – Inquiries may have uncovered a DUI or other problems
A thorough background check during the hiring process would have raised questions about two coaches later convicted of sexually abusing three girls who played sports at a Newberg Christian school, an attorney representing the girls said.
Portland attorney Kelly Clark announced a settlement earlier this week in the lawsuit he filed on the girls’ behalf against Open Bible Christian School and Church. The settlement amount is confidential, he said; his 2006 lawsuit in Yamhill County Circuit Court asked for $1 million each for emotional damages. School officials could not be reached for comment.
The young women, now 17 to 20, were abused in the early spring of 2005. Two of them told police that coaches Edward Todd Woods and Christopher Charles Lasiter took them to Woods’ home, got them drunk and sexually abused them. Lasiter had intercourse with one of the girls and each of the girls reported other incidents of sexual abuse, according to Clark’s lawsuit.
Woods and Lasiter pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six months in jail.
Woods was hired as a basketball coach and Lasiter got a coaching job at the school because he was a friend of Woods, Clark said.
A background check "would have found a bunch of stuff inconsistent with the idea of being a role model at a Christian school," Clark said.
The check would have shown the men’s combined records included charges of drunken driving and driving while suspended, evictions and child support action, he said.
"Where ever else you cut corners, you don’t do it in the hiring process," he said.
The girls left the school after the abuse, Clark said. They now regard the incident with guilt and shame, thinking that they should have known better than to get involved with the men.
"They put a lot of blame on themselves," he said.
One of the victims, now 20 and attending college, said she initially kept the abuse secret because she knew it was a "big deal" and would result in an uproar. "I felt like I knew things were wrong but I couldn’t do anything about it," she said. "I felt like I had to keep it a secret."
She decided to report the incidents almost a year later, when she learned the men were going to be coaching the girls’ team at the school. Unable to sleep the night before basketball practice was scheduled to start at her former school, she called her boyfriend from her college dorm room, then called her mother.
Her mother informed the school, the men were fired and the case was reported to police.
"I’m glad things are over, healing has already begun for me," the victim said. In most cases, The Oregonian does not report the names of sex crime victims. The young woman asked not to be identified.