MEDIA RELEASE


New Lawsuit: Second Pedophile Youth Leader at Oregon Church Sexually Abused Kids in 2015; At Least 10 Victims Identified by Police


For more information, contact:

Stephen F. Crew                                              Peter B. Janci
Crew Janci LLP                                              Crew Janci LLP
Attorney for Victim                                        Attorney for Victim
steve@crewjanci.com                                   peter@crewjanci.com
503-306-0224                                            503-550-6577

June 9, 2016

Michael StephensTHE DALLES, OREGON –  A new lawsuit was filed today on behalf of a child who was sexually abused in 2014 – 2015 by a church youth leader from the First Christian Church of The Dalles.  This is the second leader from this church to be convicted in the last three years of sexually abusing church youth.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in Wasco County Circuit Court by the mother of a minor girl who is proceeding in the lawsuit under the fictitious names “Melissa Doe.”  The lawsuit alleges negligence and other claims against the First Christian Church of The Dalles for sexual abuse suffered by the plaintiff starting in 2014 at the age of 12 years old.  The victim is represented by Crew Janci LLP, which frequently handles high-profile sexual abuse cases around the country against large institutions including the Catholic Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other youth serving institutions.

The perpetrator named in the lawsuit is Michael Cele Stephens.  Stephens was a church youth leader in the First Christian Church of The Dalles at the time of the abuse.

The lawsuit alleges that Melissa Doe was a child involved in church youth activities led by Stephens.  The lawsuit alleges that Stephens used his position of authority as a church youth leader to gain the trust of the victim and eventually sexually abuse her.  According to the lawsuit, the abuse included Stephens “exposing Plaintiff to sexually explicit text messaging, sexually explicit photos/videos, kissing, fondling Plaintiff’s genitals, oral sodomy and anal sodomy.”

According to media reports, Stephens was arrested on July 8, 2015 on criminal charges of luring a minor, three counts of second degree sodomy, and first degree online sexual corruption of a child. During the criminal investigation, law enforcement told media that Stephens disclosed at least 10 victims.  Stephens was ultimately convicted on criminal charges for his sexual abuse of six girls ranging from ages 13 to 15.  According to law enforcement, the abuse took place between September 2014 and late July 2015.  The charges included: two charges of second-degree sodomy; second-degree sex abuse; first-degree sex abuse; luring a minor; and third degree sex abuse.

On April 26, 2016, Stephens was sentenced to 15 years in prison.  According to media reports, parents who spoke during Stephens’ sentencing phase described the significant negative impact that Stephens’ abuse has had on the victims — including cutting, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

During his criminal trial, law enforcement told media that Stephens’ pattern was to meet his victims through the church youth group and then engage them through texts and social media.

“This man was a predator.  He preyed on vulnerable and lonely girls.  We intend to prove that Stephens used his position of trust as a church youth leader to groom and then violate these girls,” said attorney Stephen Crew, one of the attorneys representing the victim in today’s lawsuit.

Today’s lawsuit alleges that the First Christian Church of The Dalles was negligent in failing to investigate warning signs that Stephens’ was grooming his victims for abuse.  The suit also alleges that the Church negligently failed to implement appropriate child abuse prevention policies after the arrest of their previous Youth Pastor less than three years for his sexual abuse of a youth in the same church.

In May of 2013, youth pastor Daniel Chamberlin pleaded guilty to two felonies — second-degree sexual abuse and third-degree sodomy – for his abuse of a 15 year old girl from the church in 2006.

“This church youth leader exhibited the same warning signs that predators often exhibit – and the same warning signs that this church had seen before with its previous pedophile youth leader.  We intend to prove that the First Christian Church was negligent,” said Crew.

Attorneys from Crew Janci represented the victim in the Chamberlain case in a lawsuit filed in October of 2013. According to media reports, the victim in that case told media:  “Hopefully my actions will prevent this kind of thing from happening to other young people.”

“Sadly, it appears The First Christian Church of The Dalles has refused to learn its lesson.  At the same time as they were promising to have changed, they were letting another predator in amongst the flock.  We intend to prove that this church knowingly ignored warning signs about this predator – for a second time,” said Janci.

At the time of Chamberlain’s arrest in 2013, Senior Pastor Dan Trautman told media that elders of the church “did everything they absolutely could do” to prevent abuse. Trautman is still the Senior Pastor of the church, and was the top executive during the time of Stephens’ work for the church and his abuse of Plaintiff in 2014 through 2015.

“The facts speak for themselves.  This is a relatively small church in a quiet community. Yet, somehow, in the last ten years, they have managed to select not one, but two pedophiles, to work with their youth.  And these pedophiles have been able to isolate, groom, and sexually abuse a number of kids – all under the noses of the church leadership.  Where are the policy changes?  Where is the stepped-up oversight?  Something is horribly wrong here,” said attorney Peter Janci.

Today’s lawsuit – for abuse by Stephens – seeks $1,000,000 for treatment costs for the victim, as well as $4,000,000 for pain and suffering.  The suit also gives notice of the victim’s intent to seek punitive damages in the future.  Oregon law allows punitive damages to punish and deter a defendant that “has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.”  ORS 31.730.

 

Additional Materials:

 

Attorneys for the victim will be available for comment after 12:00PM on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at the following information:

 

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Peter Janci

About Peter Janci

Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade.  ...