Five More Former Jfk Students Claim Sexual Abuse

January 17, 2013

Five more people have contacted attorneys claiming they were sexually abused by a Franciscan friar who taught religion, coached baseball and was the athletic trainer at Warren’s John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980s.

Eleven others have reached settlements with the Franciscan Order based in Pennsylvania, JFK High School and the Youngstown Diocese and another person had contacted Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian before the quintet contacted Garabedian later on Wednesday.

Garabedian said Thursday the five men, all JFK students, contacted him with claims they were abused by the friar, Brother Stephen P. Baker, who taught at the school and was the athletic trainer at JFK from 1986-1991.

Garabedian said a sixth person, a woman, also called and said she was being treated for a sports injury while at JFK when Baker made an odd request.

Garabedian said Baker told the woman to come back to his closed-off sports training room at 6 p.m. wearing loose-fitting shirts and no underwear. The woman said she never returned to his office.

“It’s not really surprising,” Garabedian said. “Serial pedophiles like Brother Stephen Baker have no boundaries.”

Garabedian said he will collect records from the men’s school history to review them for accuracy. The investigation, he said, takes about three or four months.

After the investigation, he will contact the diocese, the Franciscan Order and the school.

Garabedian said he expects more people to come forward as word spreads about the abuse claims. He said he believes Baker molested hundreds of minors through the years.

A total of 16 former JFK students have now claimed Baker molested them during his tenure from 1986-1991. Another student claimed he was molested while attending St. Mary’s and opted to attend high school elsewhere.

After JFK, Baker worked at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, Pa. He is currently at St. Bernadine’s monastery in Newry, Pa., about seven miles south of Altoona. His major superior in the Franciscan Order, Fr. Patrick Quinn, said Baker was removed from public ministry and has been living under strict supervision and has no contact with minors.

At least one man said he was molested at least 25 times.

Officials with the diocese, the Franciscan Order and JFK said officials at the time were unaware. One person said most never told school officials and that parents were more inclined to believe religious authority figures than teenagers at the time.

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 alleged victims and the total amount of money agreed to be given to them, and said the money was agreed upon because of "personal, physical and psychological injuries" sustained by the alleged victims.

JFK, T.O.R. Franciscan and the Youngstown Diocese also agreed to pay settlements in the "high-five figures," 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.

The statute of limitations of 20 years for sex crimes has expired for all but one case of the original 11 cases.

Garabedian said it has not yet been determined if the six other cases fell within the statute of limitation range.

Two alleged victims described Baker as an imposing man, who openly grabbed students’ buttocks in the hallway and in his classroom. The attorney for the men said he assaulted other students on trips to Virginia and Columbus.

As athletes, they would be called into his training room with no windows for massages that Baker claimed would either prevent or help heal sports injuries.

Some alleged victims say he fondled them with therapeutic oils and others he digitally penetrated. One alleged victim claimed that after a while, some athletes learned to never report injuries.

“There was a complete lack of supervision,” Garabedian said. “He was a trusted authority figure that took advantage of them. It’s extremely emotional for victims who call me.”








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