Update: Former Jfk Coach, Teacher Abused Teens As Many As 25 Times
January 16, 2013
A former Warren John F. Kennedy High School religion teacher, sports trainer and baseball coach used his authority positions to tell at least a dozen students they needed massages to avoid injury, then sexually molested them, one as many as 25 times, during the late 1980s.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said Wednesday he negotiated settlements for 11 men, 10 of whom attended JFK High from 1986-1990 that claimed Brother Stephen P. Baker, a baseball coach, religion teacher and athletic trainer during his tenure at JFK, molested them. The other victim was attending St. Mary's school at the time and switched schools after he was abused.
Garabedian said some of the men, who were between 14-18 when they were molested, are now all between 36 and 40 years old and live in places ranging from Massachusetts to Nevada. Garabedian said some went on to become successful businessmen.
Each received a "high five-figure" settlement, Garabedian said.
Garabedian said a 12th man has since contacted him claiming he was also abused by Baker.
Garabedian, who said he handled cases of sexual abuse in the clergy dating back to 1995, negotiated settlements with JFK High School, the Youngstown Diocese and with T.O.R. Franciscan religious order based in Pennsylvania during four days of mediation in June and August.
Baker, reached at about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday in his room at St. Bernadine’s monastery in Newry, Pa., about seven miles south of Altoona, said he was shocked when alerted of the accusations in a brief phone interview with the newsroom.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Baker said. “I’ll have to ask my superiors if I can say anything.”
Baker then hung up and failed to return the call. The major superior of the T.O.R. Franciscan, Fr. Patrick Quinn, on Wednesday said Baker is a friar and was removed from all public ministry. Quinn said Baker has been living under strict supervision in which he has no contact with minors. Quinn said his position is similar to a bishop overseeing priests.
“Our province responded to allegations against Brother Baker with compassion and outreach,” Quinn said. “We participated in a successful mediation with 11 individuals, the diocese of Youngstown, and John F. Kennedy High School, in which all 11 claims were resolved amicably....Our policy is to reach out with compassion and care to any who come forward. The province deeply regrets the suffering endured by these 11 individuals and prays for the continued healing of all victims of child sexual abuse.”
The Diocese of Youngstown said on Wednesday they were alerted to the allegations in 2009. They said Baker taught at JFK from 1986 to 1991 and was never a member of the clergy but was a member of the T.O.R. Franciscan Brothers. The diocese in a statement said no one at JFK or the diocese was ever aware of the allegations while Baker served at the school.
The diocese said they had no legal liability but participated in settlement negotiations. The T.O.R. Franciscan Brothers is the organization that oversees friars like Baker, a different designation than priest.
Two victims said they felt embarrassment and anger when Baker sexually abused them during their time at JFK. The victims, aided by the New Jersey-based Road to Recover Center, wanted to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
They said they were molested in different places, including a whirlpool. One victim said he still attended Catholic mass.
“I hope others come forward,” one victim said. “I hope it helps kids today come forward.”
Garabedian, who said he handled cases of sexual abuse in the clergy dating back to 1995, negotiated settlements with JFK High School, the Youngstown Diocese and with TOR Franciscan religious order based in Pennsylvania during four days of mediation in June and August.
The settlements, which Garabedian declined to give details about, were finalized in October. A redacted copy of the settlement that omitted the names of the victims and the total amount of money agreed to be given to the victims, and said the money was agreed upon because of "personal, physical and psychological injuries" sustained by victims.
JFK, T.O.R. Franciscan and the Youngstown Diocese also agreed to pay attorney fees and expenses.
The agreements, obtained by the station, said the payments will be made "solely upon pastoral concern" and was not an admission of any wrongdoing by JFK, T.O.R. Franciscan and the diocese, which was "expressly denied," according to the settlement.
Garabedian called for local prosecutors to conduct an investigation into criminal charges against Baker. He said Baker was trusted by parents and highly respected at JFK. Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said he was looking into the situation.
The statute of limitation in Ohio for rape cases is 20 years. In 2011, state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, co-sponsored a bill that died in the senate that would have eliminated the statute of limitations on rape cases.
Garabedian said criminal charges are still available to prosecutors for the St. Mary's student because the statute of limitations has not yet expired. The statute of limitations has expired in the 10 other cases.
The attorney said he was unsure if school officials were aware of the abuse.
“How could they not know?” Garabedian said. “Didn’t someone notice something was off?”
Garabedian said Baker told the boys they needed massages. In some cases he would use therapeutic oil to fondle the boys and digitally penetrated them.
“The boys were afraid to say anything,” Garabedian said. “They were afraid to get kicked off the team. He was highly respected.”
Garabedian said he believes there could be more victims.
“It’s shocking this abuse could have taken place over such a long period,” Garabedian said. “There’s no telling how many people he abused.”
It’s the third time since 2010 an authority figure in the Youngstown Diocese has been accused of sexually assaulting a minor.
In October 2011, Bishop George Murry said the Rev. John Warner, who worked in various Mahoning Valley churches during his 40-year career, entered a treatment facility after they discovered “credible” allegations that he sexually abused an adolescent altar boy at least 30 years ago.
Warner was accused of sexually assaulting a former altar boy who was about 13 years old at Youngstown’s St. Edward Parish, where Warner served from 1976-1982.
Warner, whose career included a three-year stint at St. Mary Parish in Warren and St. Vincent dePaul Parish in Vienna, was stripped of his ability perform any function of a priest, including celebration of the sacraments, wearing clerical attire or presenting himself as a priest in good standing.
Warner is the second diocesan priest in the last two years to be removed from the priesthood.
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI removed the Rev. Thomas Crum from the priesthood for having sexual contact with a minor.
Crum, who had served more than 30 years with the diocese, admitted to sexually abusing a high school student in 1975-76. He was removed from active ministry in 2009 after confirming allegations that he had sexually abused a minor.
"The Diocese of Youngstown continues to be committed to protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse," Youngstown Bishop George Murry said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry for the pain suffered by survivors of abuse, because nothing is more important than protecting our children.”