A lawsuit claims that a church-operated school in Oklahoma was negligent in not preventing or stopping abuse by a former teacher.
The lawsuit filed in Tulsa County District Court against Grace Fellowship Church, Grace Christian School and related entities involves the case of former teacher Aaron Thompson.
Thompson, now 32, pleaded guilty in 2003 to 16 counts of lewd molestation and two counts of sexually abusing a child. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison plus 15 years of probation.
The criminal counts involved nine boys and covered a time frame from 1997 to March 2002. The boys ranged in age from 7 to 13 or 14 when they were molested, according to a prosecutor.
Thompson is at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, the Department of Corrections’ Web site shows.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman and her teenage son alleges that Thompson sexually abused the boy, who was a student at Grace. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000.
Attorney James Frasier, representing the plaintiffs, said the victim was 17 when the case was filed. Lawyers indicated that he had until his 19th birthday to initiate a lawsuit.
The consequences of “these horrible acts” are lifelong, and he had an “absolute right” to wait until now to pursue a suit, Frasier said.
He would not say whether his client was one of the victims involved in the criminal charges against Thompson, who is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Michael King, an attorney for Grace Church, said he needed more information – including the identity of the boy – before he could comment on the lawsuit.
“I certainly believe in the people at Grace,” King said. “They do a lot of good things out there.”
In 2004, on the verge of the end of a seven-week trial, a confidential settlement was reached to resolve issues in a lawsuit by five boys who were molested by Thompson. The claims of two more boys who had been involved in that civil case were settled before that 2004 trial.
In 2005, another confidential settlement was reached to resolve another suit on behalf of another of Thompson’s molestation victims.
Information from: Tulsa World, www.tulsaworld.com
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