Victory loses bid to end civil case
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
1/08/13 at 6:46 AM
A judge denied Victory Christian Center's motion to dismiss a civil case against the megachurch on Monday, moving the lawsuit on behalf of a 13-year-old rape victim closer to trial.
The lawsuit, filed in Tulsa County District Court in September, claims that the church intentionally inflicted emotional distress by not reporting the rape to police or the victim's parents for about two weeks after learning of the allegations.
The mother of the victim is identified as the plaintiff in the lawsuit. It is the Tulsa World's policy not to identify victims of sexual assault.
District Judge Rebecca Nightingale heard arguments from both parties before denying the motion to dismiss on all points except for accusations that Victory Christian Center was vicariously responsible for the criminal conduct of their employee.
That former employee, Chris Denman, 20, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree rape, forcible oral sodomy, lewd molestation, making a lewd proposal to a child and two counts of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. He was sentenced last month to 55 years in prison and five years of probation.
"We're anxious to move forward with discovery" in the lawsuit "and get their (Victory Christian staff members') statements under oath," plaintiff's attorney Michael Atkinson said.
He told the judge he wants to interview church staff members who face criminal charges on allegations that they did not report the rape accusations for two weeks.
Five Victory Christian Center staff members, including a son and daughter-in-law of Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty, were suspended from employment after being charged with failing to report child abuse.
They have pleaded not guilty in their criminal case, and all five employees have returned to work at the church.
Victory Christian's defense attorney in the civil case, Malinda Matlock, argued that the deposition of church staff members should not take place until after the criminal case has been closed.
Nightingale said she would soon rule on a Victory Christian motion to quash the depositions.
Also on Monday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests again issued a statement blasting the church.
David Clohessy, director of the organization, said in the statement that he hopes this lawsuit discourages other officials from "ignoring, minimizing or hiding suspected child sexual assaults."
"Shame on Victory employees and Victory church members," Clohessy said. "Both should be ashamed of the legal maneuvers church lawyers are using to protect church assets and church staff reputations."
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367