Judge: Boy molested at Willow Creek church can seek extra damages
By Bob Susnjara
November 21, 2017
A Cook County judge has allowed an attorney to seek additional financial damages in a lawsuit against Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington on behalf of a special-needs boy who was molested there by an adult volunteer who admitted the sexual abuse.
Lawyer Kevin J. Golden's case on behalf of the now 13-year-old Fox Lake boy against the church and Robert Sobczak, the volunteer in question, began in Cook County circuit court in February 2014. His client has autism, ADHD and a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge syndrome.
Golden said the case has dragged on long enough.
"The church has fought this from Day One and has not taken responsibility," he said. "We look forward to our day in court."
Willow Creek issued a statement on the suit Tuesday.
"As this is a pending legal matter, we respect the privacy of the parties involved and are limited in what we can comment about at this time," the statement says. "However, Willow Creek Community Church has done everything it can to assist in this investigation and litigation. We take very seriously the safety of children entrusted to our care and hope to have the opportunity to work to reach a resolution in this case."
The suit alleges Willow Creek was negligent by not properly supervising Sobczak, 24, who records show remains in Graham Correctional Center in downstate Hillsboro for other sexual abuse convictions not involving the boy in the lawsuit. The former Hoffman Estates man received probation in December 2013 after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse against that boy.
While the suit already sought a minimum $50,000 in compensation for the boy's injuries, Cook County Judge Kathy M. Flanagan late last month issued an order allowing an amended complaint to seek punitive damages. The suit seeks more than $50,000 in punitive damages.
"The punitive damage count allows the plaintiff to punish the church for the conduct in this case -- allowing a pedophile to prey on special-needs children," Golden said.
Court documents say the boy's mother placed him in Willow Creek's Promiseland program for special-needs children when she attended a church service on Feb. 17, 2013. The suit alleges Willow Creek did not enforce a rule that two adults were to be with the children at all times, leading to Sobczak's removing the boy from a class and molesting him in a sensory room.
That day, his mom reported it to Willow Creek employees and authorities were contacted, according to the amended lawsuit. Willow Creek representatives have said Sobczak was immediately removed from his volunteer position.
Golden said the boy lives with his mother, father and siblings. He said the parents are worried about potential long-term effects from the abuse.
Illinois Department of Corrections records show Sobczak remains incarcerated for one case of sexual abuse against another boy at Willow Creek and another unrelated to the church.