Hanna Boys Center named in additional child abuse allegations, along with other Catholic institutions

Sonoma Index-Tribune [Sonoma CA]

June 25, 2022

By Chase Hunter

New court filings allege Catholic Church organizations, including Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley, oversaw hundreds of incidents of child abuse by priests and employees, according to a lawyer familiar with the case.

At least eight new lawsuits have been filed against Hanna Boys Center, where church officials allegedly abused children from the 1970s to 2018.

The charges identify individuals already accused of abuse, such as former Hanna Boys Center Director Father John Crews and also unearths new allegations against Rev. James E. Pulskamp, who later became chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, where oversaw its handling of abuse allegations.

In 2019, Hanna Boys Center was named in prior allegations of child sexual abuse by two former graduates, which led to a $6.8 million settlement for the crimes committed by Crews and others associated with the facility.

The latest accusations, first reported by NBC Bay Area, reveal a new volume of child abuse allegations made possible through a 2019 California law, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on sexual abuse beginning in Jan. 2020, allowing past victims to file court documents during a three-year window that ends in Dec. 2022.

Jack Sanford, an attorney representing a victim for the law firm Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, said his client was 10-years-old when Crews abused them over the course of a year in the early 1990s. The abuse included molestation, forced oral sex and abuse of power and occurred in the chapel the vehicle Crews drove during outings.

“(Crews) was at one place for a long time, which is, I think, unusual for these serial abusers; they often would move them around to different places because it’s easier to conceal it that way,” Sanford said. “It’s my understanding that it went very high up.”

New accusations have also been filed against previously-accused Hanna Boys Center officials Gary Timmons and Fracisco Xavier Ochoa, according to Dan McNevin, an area leader with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“A lot of these men and women are still alive, and they haven’t been held accountable,” McNevin said of Catholic diocese. “They’re not on sex registry lists. And as a result, they are still free to abuse.”

The eight new cases brought against Hanna Boys Center are part of more than 180 new filings against Catholic entities throughout California, according to Sanford.

In a statement responding to the newest set of allegations, Hanna Boys Center CEO Cameron Safarloo said, “We became aware of the allegation against Rev. Pulskamp following the airing of the NBC Bay Area report on June 23, and we immediately removed his listing as a Regent Emeritus from our website. To be clear, Rev. Pulskamp is not employed by, nor has any active role with Hanna. Hanna has never received any complaint regarding Rev. Pulskamp.”

Safarloo added, “This in no way diminishes our concern, as we are saddened by this allegation. We have not been served with the complaint and cannot further comment.”

Because of the numerous allegations in Northern California, the filings are being consolidated into one case in Alameda County, Sanford said. A “Bellweather” trial will likely be held next year with a handful of representative cases detailing abuse, he added.

“It’s incredibly sad how many victims there are, and there are more being added every day,” Sanford said. “And I just really hope that we’re able to get these victims some compensation and, very importantly, hold these Catholic entities accountable for this institutional abuse of the most vulnerable people in society, children.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.