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Supreme Court denies longshot appeal by Watchtower in California molest case

A few weeks ago, hardworking ex-JW activists Lloyd Evans and Mark O’Donnell invited us on one of their videocasts to discuss one of Watchtower’s recent legal moves: appealing to the US Supreme Court.

Mark has written at length on the background of the case, involving a girl known as “J.W.,” and the Jehovah’s Witness elder who assaulted her, Gilbert Simental, who is now serving a sentence of 45 years to life in a California prison. JW’s family sued Watchtower in 2013, demonstrating that the organization had known Simental was a child predator and had done nothing about it. They won a $4 million civil judgment in a Riverside County court, which was upheld in multiple state appeals.

In its appeal to the US Supreme Court, Watchtower’s attorneys claimed that the church’s rights had been violated because the production of some documents violated priest-penitent privilege.

Lloyd and Mark asked us if we had any similar experiences on the Scientology side, and we said that we certainly had. Scientology made the same argument when it appealed a ruling by a Los Angeles court that it turn over Laura DeCrescenzo’s files to her in her lawsuit against the church alleging, among other things, that she’d been forced to have an abortion when she was a 17-year-old Sea Org worker.


Based on that experience, we explained why the priest-penitent argument was a bogus one. The law about priest-penitent confidentiality was written to protect spoken communication between a single parishioner and a clergy person. In the case of Scientology, not only was everything Laura had said during confessional sessions written down in detail in her files, Scientology had to admit that more then 200 officials had accessed those files!

Mark and Lloyd told us something similar was going on in the JW organization, which was more interested in protecting its dirty laundry than protecting parishioner confessions.

The second thing we told them, based on our experience, was that the odds were greatly stacked against Watchtower that the Supreme Court would take up their appeal. Most likely, we said, it will just be listed among many others that won’t get heard as a few others move to the next step.

And yesterday, that’s exactly what happened. Watchtower’s appeal was listed among those that didn’t make the cut.

J.W.’s case is finally at its end.

At Facebook, Mark posted this reaction…

The United States Supreme Court has denied Watchtower’s appeal following years of litigation in the California trial court and the California Appellate and Supreme Courts.

The family of J.W. has asked me to share the following statement:

“After years of battle, where we as survivors were challenged every step of the way — even to the highest court possible — we are thrilled with this outcome that will not only help with our recovery but set precedent for the thousands of cases pending now and in the future.”

For any who might have questions about this case, I am posting my JW Survey article which summarizes the core elements of the civil case.

Thanks to all who have shown an interest in these proceedings. Watchtower must now pay the default judgment of 4 million dollars plus significant interest. The Travelers Insurance bond purchased by Watchtower was in excess of six million dollars.

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