Times Union [Albany NY]
August 26, 2021
By Robert Gavin
ALBANY – A woman is suing the Grace Baptist Church in Lansingburgh, alleging its leadership ignored her daily sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a youth pastor – then claimed that she had “led him on.”
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Broadway alleged Larry Hallock, the church’s former youth pastor, sexually abused the victim “on a daily basis” between 2000 and 2002 in the church located at 612 Fourth Avenue. The girl was between 15 and 17 at the time, her lawyer said.
At the time of the abuse, the lawsuit said, Hallock’s wife sent the child several letters acknowledging that she had informed the leadership of Grace Baptist Church of Hallock’s involvement with the child.
“Rather than inquire as to why (the child) was receiving letters from the Pastor Larry Hallock’s wife, the church leadership did nothing,” the lawsuit said. “Later when the abuse came to light, they stated the plaintiff had ‘led him on.’ More, Grace Baptist Church leadership has stated because plaintiff didn’t ‘cry for help’ she was culpable for the abuse perpetrated upon her.”
Grace Baptist Church and its pastor, the Rev. John Koletas, have attracted attention in the past for AR-15 rife giveaways, including one in late June 2020 amid protests in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020, police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police were called after protesters blocked the door of the church.
The church’s Facebook page said it was formed on July 1, 1987, in downtown Troy and moved to its previous location on Third Street in Lansingburgh in November 1988.
Koletas’ personal Facebook page identified him as a Baptist preacher. Several of the posts shared debunked conspiracy theories, racist comments, as well as several sexist posts, including at least one mocking the “Me Too” movement, which led to the takedown of several high-profile sexual predators.
A phone number for Hallock in public records was disconnected. Koletas could not be reached.
The woman filed the suit on Aug. 9 under the state’s Child Victims Act, which allowed victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits years after the statute of limitations expired on the alleged crimes.
The lawsuit alleged that between 2000 and 2002, Hallock victimized the child before the child’s morning paper route and during church-sponsored events.
“The sexual abuse suffered by plaintiff included sexual and emotional grooming, oral sex, fondling, and forced sexual touching,” stated the suit, filed by Dallas attorney Ashley Pileika and Florida attorney Thomas J. Nessler.
The victim, identified only as a “Jane Doe,” now resides outside of the country, the lawsuit said.
“She is extremely private about her personal life due to the fact she has been harassed, stalked, threatened by members of the church,” Nestler told the Times Union. “The abuse she suffered has taken extreme tolls on her personal happiness. In my opinion, she is an extremely brave woman for speaking out and trying to make herself whole again.”
Nestler added: “She would like to send a message to the church members, ‘Do not be intimidated by those who twist the bible for their own agenda. If you or your loved ones were ever harmed by anyone in the church reach out.’”
The lawsuit said Hallock, who supervised the church’s youth trips and Sunday services, abused the child at those events.
It said the church controlled the premises, supervised the pastors such as Hallock and held itself out as a place where children would be safe.
The lawsuit accuses the church of negligence; gross negligence; assault and sexual assault of a child; premises liability; breach of fiduciary duty; negligent infliction of emotional distress and breach of statutory duties to report, among other allegations.
It asked for damages for past, present and future mental anguish and emotional distress, medical expenses and loss of earning ability; punitive and compensatory damages; litigation costs and attorney fees.
Robert Gavin covers state and federal courts, criminal justice issues and legal affairs for the Times Union. Contact him at email@example.com or 518-434-2403.