New Sex Abuse Lawsuit Names Former Pastor, Church

September 30, 2010

[with video]

A civil lawsuit claims a Des Moines church ignored several warning signs regarding a former pastor who abused teenage boys.

St. John's Lutheran Church and former pastor Duane Martinson are at the center of the lawsuit, which comes 25 years after Martinson pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sex abuse.

Martinson was an associate pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Des Moines at the time he was accused of abusing six to seven teenage boys.

"Duane Martinson, a year prior to this abuse beginning, was accused in his church up in Minneapolis of sexually abusing children, plenty of red flags," said Joseph Galligan, the accuser's attorney.

The civil lawsuit filed by one of the accusers claims that the church knew or should have known about the previous charges. Galligan said there was a police investigation, but no criminal charges.

"There was an investigation that as commonly happened back in the 80s, it was handled within the church and of course we have no way of knowing how it was handled," said Galligan.

Galligan claimed that much of the abuse did not happen at the church, but instead happened at Martinson's home in West Des Moines and on a church outgoing.

At the news conference, Galligan said his client, who's not identified in the lawsuit, repressed memories of abuse until recently.

"He has children who are coming upon the same age as when he suffered abuse," said Galligan.

One former church abuse accuser said it's not uncommon for repressed memories to resurface.

"Most people don't have much of a grasp of the consequences of the abuse until they're 40, seems to be the threshold," said Bill Lahay.

Lahay said that in many similar cases, others in the church had knowledge of the abuse.

"They usually knew or had some or something where they should have been more diligent about this before they placed an abuser in contact with minors ro children," said Lahay.

Martinson resigned from St. John's church in 1985 after he was charged in the abuse case.

Pastor Rachel Mithelman said in a statement released on Wednesday that the church acknowledges the lawsuit, but has not had a chance to review the allegations concerning events from 25 years ago. She said the church does take the lawsuit very seriously and will investigate the allegations.

KCCI tried to contact Martinson for comment, but was unable to reach him. He is a president of a laundry supply company in Minnesota.


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