A monster confesses: video footage of Gonzalo Campos admitting his abuse of Witness children has sparked media interest

The online Jehovah’s Witness community has been rocked by news of yet another horrific child abuse cover-up.

This time the cover-up involves a Witness pedophile who repeatedly abused his position of trust in the congregation, but has since fled the United States and is currently ‘exiled’ in his native Mexico.

San Diego’s 10News outlet aired a news story about Gonzalo Campos on the evening of July 22, 2013 after obtaining footage of him confessing to his crimes in a video deposition filmed in Mexico. In his statement, Campos seems to claim that his elders allowed him to continue studying with children even after they had been alerted to his despicable habits.

Lawyer Irwin Zalkin represented several of Campos’ victims in a lawsuit that was filed at the court in San Diego in 2011. Despite Watchtower being named as one of the defendants due to their failure to act, they eventually succeeded in negotiating a multi-million dollar settlement. Because of this, full details of the case are hard to come by.

Despite the shortage of information in the above news report and corresponding article, JWsurvey has been able to review some of the court documents, which are available on Barbara Anderson’s invaluable WatchtowerDocuments.com resource. You can check these documents yourself by clicking here.

Though they are written by two opposing legal teams and thus present an occasionally conflicting story, the case files do give a remarkable insight into Campos’ depravity and the extraordinary negligence of his local congregation and Brooklyn HQ in failing to seize opportunities to protect Witness children from a man known to be a predatory child molester.

I will now try to describe the course of events to the best of my knowledge and ability. Please be aware that (1) I am no legal expert, and (2) I am piecing together information from conflicting court documents, and I defer to these and the persons actually involved in the case in the event of any discrepancy.

A litany of abuse

Gonzalo Campos was born in Mexico on July 10, 1963, and moved to the United States with this mother in the late 1970s. He took an interest in Jehovah’s Witnesses after his mother began studying with them, and soon began studying himself and attending meetings at the Linda Vista congregation in San Diego.

Campos was baptized on September 27, 1980, age 17. He became heavily involved in the preaching work to the extent that some evidently considered him to be a pioneer, although it is disputed that he ever was.

The San Diego kingdom hall Campos attended when much of the abuse was happening

Then, in 1982, Campos was accused of molesting a young boy, Arturo Jemio, who was 12 at the time. It is possible that Campos was living in the same house as Arturo at the time, but I am unable to verify this.

According to Arturo, he was sleeping and felt his pants being pulled down. He awoke to find Campos kneeling by his bed, but was not aware of Campos touching him inappropriately. Even so, he believed Campos had tried to abuse him and told his mother, who in turn notified the elders. Within two days, both Arturo and Campos were interviewed by the elders. Campos admitted that he had touched Arturo inappropriately, but the elders did not punish him. They only counseled him.

Then, on two occasions over a twelve-month period between 1983 and 1984, Campos abused John Dorman and told him to keep the abuse secret as his “special friend.” John was about seven or eight at the time.

In 1986 another accusation is said to have arose against Campos involving child molestation, resulting in the formation of a judicial committee – although this is disputed and neither side names the victim of the alleged molestation. According to the plaintiffs, the Linda Vista elders were informed of accusations of molestation, a judicial committee was formed, Campos admitted the charges against him, was deemed repentant and privately reproved.

Though the existence of the 1986 judicial committee was either disputed or otherwise dismissed by Watchtower’s lawyers, both sides seem to acknowledge that around 1986 Campos spent nine months with a loss of privileges. This corresponds with what the penalty would have been for someone who was privately reproved. And obviously, you cannot be privately reproved without having been disciplined by a judicial committee. And you cannot be in a judicial committee without the elders knowing what you have done.

As 1986 drew to a close, it was decided that Linda Vista congregation had become too swollen with publishers. As a result, in November of that year, a separate congregation was formed, which Campos joined. It was initially called the La Jolla Spanish Congregation, but later became known as the Playa Pacifica Spanish Congregation. The body of elders at the new congregation was composed entirely of elders from Linda Vista, who would have at least been aware of the 1982 “incident” if not the disputed 1986 judicial committee. According to documents submitted by the plaintiffs, at least one of the elders in the new congregation had actually served on the latter.

Despite his appalling track record, Campos was inexplicably appointed a ministerial servant two years later on December 22, 1988. It was in the same year that Campos had begun abusing a young boy he was studying with by the name of Joel Gamboa.

A Google image of the Playa Pacifica Kingdom Hall at 4243 Ingraham Street, San Diego, which Campos attended right up until 2009.

Just over four years later, in another act of brazen negligence and stupidity, Campos’ elders appointed him as an elder on June 23, 1993. Campos was still only 29 at the time. By no later than October of that year he found himself privileged with the role of Congregation Secretary. The following March, the congregation physically relocated to 4243 Ingraham Street, San Diego, California.

Things began to come undone for Campos in the spring of 1994 when one of his victims, John Dorman, then 16, confided in his mother about his abuse at the hands of Campos. Amazingly, this wasn’t to be the end of Campos’ spree of molestation as a respected elder – at least not yet.

On learning of her son’s abuse, Manuela Dorman telephoned one of her elders, Roberto Rivera. Her son had indicated that Roberto’s own son might also have been abused (which he had). On taking the call, Roberto said that he would check with his son and the other elders and get back to Manuela. In the meantime, Manuela confronted Campos by telephone about her son’s abuse, and Campos admitted molesting her son but said that the matter had already been dealt with judicially in 1986.

Then, when Roberto Rivera called Manuela back, to her astonishment he warned her not to pursue the matter any further. He told her that if she did, there would be serious repercussions – including the details of an affair she engaged in years ago being divulged to the congregation. Manuela was also told that because her son’s abuse happened so long ago it was too late to do anything about it. This threatening dismissal caused Manuela considerable distress and anxiety. Her son John was also later wrongly informed and led to believe that he could do nothing through the authorities, because his statute of limitation had expired (even though it wasn’t to expire until January 2010). So, not only did the elders refuse to report Campos, they allegedly gave his victim wrong information to put him off reporting the abuse himself.

Refusing to give up, Manuela wrote a letter of complaint to her congregation, dated April 11, 1994. The congregation then forwarded this to the Society two days later. 50 days passed before Watchtower responded to the letter, during which time Campos continued his abuse of Joel Gamboa.

Then, in a letter dated June 9, 1994, Watchtower finally replied and instructed the Playa Pacifica elders to investigate the allegations. Unfortunately, one of those elders was the very man who was the subject of the investigation, and it seems Campos exploited this to his advantage.

As much as nine months rolled by during which Watchtower failed to follow up on their letter, and for at least a further six months Campos seized his chance to continue his abuse of Joel Gamboa. During this period, a Circuit Overseer visited the congregation and, in his report back to the branch, is said to have praised Campos for his auxiliary pioneer work despite acknowledging the allegations of abuse made against him.

The Playa Pacifica elders eventually wrote a letter back to the Society, dated March 29, 1995. In this letter, which the Watchtower lawyers claim was penned entirely by Campos, it was claimed that his abuse of John Dorman had already been addressed in the 1986 judicial committee in which he was reproved. It should be remembered at this point that Watchtower does not recognise that (1) this judicial committee ever took place, or (2) that it involved John Dorman. Even so, it seems the March letter succeeded in satisfying the Society that the matter had been dealt with.

Things become even more sketchy at this point. What is known is that, at some point while the accusations surrounding John Dorman were being “investigated,” the Playa Pacifica elders became aware that Campos had abused another young boy, Joel Gamboa, after his mother approached them. By this point Joel had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so the elders contacted him via a speakerphone conversation, and asked him whether Campos had ever abused him, to which he replied that yes, he had.

Thus, on June 9, 1995, Campos was finally disfellowshipped and removed as an elder – NOT for his abuse of John Dorman (which had started the investigation), but because of his abuse of Joel Gamboa.

In the years following his disfellowshipping, Campos repeatedly requested reinstatement. He eventually admitted to the elders to abusing more victims, including John and Joshua Rivera and Ruth Bias. Despite these confessions, no reports were made to the police.

Campos was finally reinstated on April 21, 2000. It was only when, in September 2009, some of his victims learned that he was regularly attending meetings at Playa Pacifica congregation that they apparently began considering taking legal action. A civil lawsuit ensued, which was eventually settled – but not before Campos fled to Hidalgo, Mexico, where he remains. Given the civil settlement, and his current exile, it seems unlikely that he will ever face criminal conviction for his horrific deeds.

The victims

Here are further details of just six of Campos’ victims, all of whom claim to have had lasting emotional and psychological difficulties as a result of their abuse.

John Dorman – born Sep 7, 1977. Abused by Campos on two occasions within a twelve months period from ’83 to ’84 between the ages of seven and eight. On both occasions, Dorman was abused by Campos when accompanying him for work at his landscaping business. The first time was in his van; the second time on the way to a gardening job, and later at someone’s house where Campos’ mother was working as a cleaner. Campos also conducted a bible study with Dorman at his family home between ’82 and ’87.

Joel Gamboa – born Dec 31, 1980. Abused sometimes two or three times per week over a six-year period from ’88 right up to ’95. Campos was invited to study with Joel at his home, and he used these opportunities to sexually abuse him, especially (for some reason) during prayers. Joel was also abused by Campos in his van while accompanying him to work at his landscaping business, after Campos picked him up from school, in parking lots, and at Campos’ home. The abuse only ended in 1995 after Joel moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly after the move, as previously explained, Joel was contacted by phone by the Playa Pacifica elders, and asked whether he had been abused by Campos. He confirmed that he had. This was used as evidence to finally disfellowship Campos but, as with all the other victims, his accusation was never reported to the police.

John Rivera – born May 4, 1979. John Rivera was abused repeatedly, approximately between 1986 and 1992. He was between the ages of seven and twelve at the time. The abuse took place during field service, and also on one occasion when he was taken on a bible study.

Joshua Rivera – born July 19, 1984. Joshua was abused repeatedly between 1990 and 1993, when he was between the ages of six and nine. He was also abused during field service, and even in the parking lot of the kingdom hall.

Ruth Bias – born June 6, 1981 (maiden name “Ruth Christina Rivera”). Ruth was abused between 1989 and 1993/94, between the ages of 8 and 12. She was abused during field service and also at the “physical location” of the kingdom hall.

Javier Cervantes – born April 21, 1976. Javier was abused between 1984 and 1985, at the approximate ages of 8 and 9. He too was abused while Campos was “pioneering.”

Missed opportunities to end the abuse

He’s admitted his crimes, but it looks like Campos won’t have to pay the penalty thanks to Watchtower’s inability to report his depravity

Despite certain areas of ambiguity when reading the court documents, one element of this horrific case that is striking is the number of missed opportunities to end the abuse. Three of these opportunities are most outstanding…

1982 – after Campos was caught molesting twelve-year-old Arturo Jemio in his bed, the authorities should have been alerted. This would have likely spared any further victims. Instead, not only was the abuse covered up by the elders with nothing more than a “counselling” of Campos – the incident was also apparently forgotten. In the years that followed, Campos was allowed unfettered access to multiple young ones in the congregation with disastrous consequences.

1986something clearly happened in that year. Both sides recognize that Campos was put on restrictions for nine months around this time, and this could only realistically have been as a result of a private reproof, which in turn would be an outcome of a judicial hearing. I have unanswered questions as to which child the incident involved, or whether a judicial committee was formed at all. But IF accusations of molestation were brought to the attention of the elders at this time, then it was yet another missed opportunity to bring Campos to justice and prevent further victims.

1994/1995 – a period that witnessed a series of horrific acts of negligence on behalf of both Watchtower and the local elders. First, John Dorman’s mother is threatened with “serious repercussions” if she takes her accusations any further. Then, when she does write a letter of complaint, Watchtower sits on it for nearly two months while Campos continues to use his position as Congregation Secretary to assault Joel Gamboa. When Watchtower finally gets round to writing to the elders (including Campos) ordering them to “investigate” the matter, the instructions are not followed up on. This allows Campos at least six extra months to inflict yet more abuse on young Joel, doubtless manipulating his fellow elders all the while in doing so. It is June 1995, a year on from John Dorman’s accusation, before Campos is finally disfellowshipped – and still none of the accusations are reported to the police, despite the elders learning of yet more victims in the years that follow.

Another terrible witness

In researching the above, I could scarcely believe much of what I was reading. Apart from the chilling narrative of Campos’ deplorable deeds, the apathy of the organization and the audacity of Watchtower’s lawyers in trying to defend it is beyond comprehension. Much of it is still sinking in as I write these concluding words. I just cannot fathom how, in recent history, a congregation could be quite so naive and complacent as to fail to recognise the threat posed by Campos, who was quite clearly a monster. Multiple opportunities to stop him from increasing his number of young victims were simply thrown away, both by the elders and the Society itself.

Jim McCabe hesitates momentarily before confirming his allegiance to the two witness rule

Unfortunately, when comparing the case of Candace Conti and the recent news reports about Gordon Leighton in the UK, we see a horrifying pattern emerge. Put simply, Watchtower doesn’t care about the welfare of children. All it really cares about is the archaic two witness rule, which is supposed to apply to adults, not kids.

This apparent obsession was confirmed in the above news report, when Watchtower lawyer Jim McCabe, who has also worked on the Candace Conti lawsuit, was interviewed. Reporter Mitch Blacher asked him, “Does the church always report allegations of child abuse to the police?” McCabe appeared contemplative momentarily before answering definitively, “No. Under biblical law a man can only be convicted on the testimony of two or more witnesses.”

Such an answer will have been as gobsmacking to the reporter and TV audience as to the many hundreds of thinking Witnesses like me who despair at the willful neglect that Watchtower displays through its bizarre preoccupation with protecting pedophiles rather than the children they prey upon.

When asked whether it is widely known that Jehovah’s Witnesses have problems in handling child sexual abuse, lawyer Irwin Zalchin asserted, “No, no. And it needs to be brought to the public’s attention.” This echoed the sentiments of Rick Simons in 2012, when he told a small gathering: “Watchtower’s going to need more than one lesson, the Catholic Church sure did, and they’re going to get more than one lesson!”

As case after case slowly reveals how completely out of touch Watchtower is with its handling of child abuse, you begin to wonder just how many “lessons” are needed, and how many young victims will be made to pay the price for Watchtower’s appalling arrogance and neglect.

 ***UPDATE: For the latest developments in the Gonzalo Campos story, click here.***








Further reading…

20 thoughts on “License to harm: Predator Gonzalo Campos was allowed by elders to prey on children

  • July 23, 2013 at 11:58 am

    John Cedars, a great but very disturbing news report, news that the world community needs to hear. Giant kudos to you for telling it so well. Maybe now the Watchtower will be held accountable for its crimes against children of Jehovah’s Witness families.

  • July 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Thank you Cedars for highlighting this, it seems once again the so called spiritual paradise the “Witnesses” speak of is actually a pedo’s paradise in reality. As a survivor myself the scenarios sound so familiar.

  • July 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you Cedars for informing us on this. It is truly sickening to see that these monsters are allowed to continue abusing, just to cover there on name. I can only hope that word continues to get in the media and something big happens to the watchtower, this needs to stop!

  • July 23, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Watchtower likes new light, well here is a giant spotlight on them!
    Glad to see that its not apostates besmirching Jehovah’s name but this self appointed channel! Well done John!

  • July 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    In the WT’s recent video, “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists!”, the point is made: “Shine a spotlight on their actions” (3:10″).

    Everyone that stands up to the abuse of both individual abusers in the organization and to the abusive practices of the organization itself is helping to beat the bullies but “shining a spotlight on their abusive actions.”

    Cedars, you are helping to do this by your excellent posts. Keep up the good work!

  • July 23, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Good article Cedars,

    *** w86 1/1 p. 13 par. 12 Days Like “the Days of Noah” ***
    Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality. Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean! (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) This is a time for congregation elders, ministerial servants, and indeed all our brothers and sisters to avoid any circumstances that could lead to immorality

    It is FUNNY, “This is a time for congregation elders, ministerial servants,…”! Was IT AN ORDER, a WISH or a PLEA.

  • July 24, 2013 at 7:05 am

    The Watchtower’s real interests lie exposed. “Where your treasure is; there your heart will be also.”-Proverbs. And, it is a sin and a crime. Memories of being abused while ‘praying’ or preaching the bible-is it even possible to forget or overcome them? I think if you really care about young people then you will try to put yourself in their places and try to prevent their being burdened by evil acts. So far there has been no cure found for pedophilia. “Big people take care of little people!”-Dr. Drew Pinsky. Let’s get to it!

  • July 24, 2013 at 7:33 am

    He has to hesitate as he can’t speak with the firmness of conviction that we alleged “apostates” can! He and the Society, especially the legal department have no convictions or principles whatsoever!

    I think the smug, angry and vicious display rather says it all…the days of being on top are gone…there are those who do the Raping and pillaging and those who eventually get Raped and pillaged in the end!

    >>>>>>>>>>>> Only the truly foolish one doesn’t believe it isn’t ever going to happen…

    Jim McCabe hesitates momentarily before confirming his allegiance to the two witness rule

  • July 24, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Again just another case where the thinking they are above the law permeates through all of Jehovah’s witness ranks starting from the top with the Governing Body. To date this is one of the most disturbing cases of abuse that went unreported by the society. In my opinion even their applying of the so called “two witness rule” doesn’t come into play as Mr. Campos admitted to the charges. So what then does the WTBTS do, they try as best as possible to cover up what had been going on for years. I understand you have no controlling what your members do but when you set the rules for conduct and reporting of judicial committee matters then you are liable for the non reporting to the Police of what you know especially when it comes to a child by the hands of a Elder who is supposedly appointed by the operation of holy spirit. It is nothing more then Holy Crap. If this was the true religion and God was speaking through and directing these people then don’t you think he would not allow such horrific things to occur on behalf of his name? While a Elder is praying to Jehovah he is molesting a child? I THINK NOT!! Just one more reason and probably the best one to never get involved or get out of this religion as fast as you can. Once you see things from a legal perspective it will make you very aware of how far they really are from the “TRUTH”

  • July 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Where an accusation might be false, the two witnesses rule still holds, but in the Christian arrangement single admission is sufficient Acts 5 v 8.
    Even in the case of unsupported or suspect accusation, the conventions of propriety should limit all access to other peoples children, indefinitely because of the recidivist nature of this behavior. After all how many young men, are chaperoned while with their future wife?
    After all say a brother is accused falsely, would he then willingly put himself in any position where he could be accused again?
    But a Pedophile probably will, because you’ve given him another chance.

  • July 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    “After all how many young men, are chaperoned while with their future wife?”

    Many lives, would be, and families as well have been devastated by cruel and often jealous, opportunistic wolves who have empowered themselves to pounce upon such unscriptural reasoning as not being able to separate Victorian cultural “conventions of propriety” from soundly based scriptural instruction! While intruding upon the affairs of adults! Always using the word, “appropriate” and never providing any basis for it…

    However, you don’t seem to get the overall point that the spirit of God is not present here and this is an ongoing theme for many years far deeper, systemic and calculated than you are apparently grasping…have you had the opportunity to perouse the entire website yet? There is much more regarding…as well as JWleaks.org & JWfacts.com

  • July 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

    You argue with your self I did not use the word Victorian, guess why.
    Goodbye, my effort here is wasted.

  • July 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Reader July 25, 2013 at 9:34 am said:

    You argue with your self I did not use the word Victorian, guess why.
    Goodbye, my effort here is wasted”

    I don’t believe I was “arguing” (but I realize that tact is not one of my finest endowments) with anyone but simply stated what I have observed and actually experienced myself firsthand as well and it absolutely applies…I apologize to “Reader” as my personal experiences in this area have not been pleasant ones and neither have the ones that I have witnessed.

    How this equates to his/her efforts being wasted? I’m not entirely sure since I invited him/her to continue to look further into these matters. As a “Reader” I would like to think that is something he/she would endeavor to benefit from!

  • July 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Cedars well done you broke it down perfectly. Its sickning to see how the org does not care of the well being of the kids on the cong, i have presentation letter of Gonazlo Campos to his new cong you could see it in the blog called hildenbrando i otras hierbas.. I received that letter from anonymous friend.

  • July 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    This is a prime example showing the wide open flaws in the organization setup by the WT Society. Clearly no group of people would stand for what was happening here. However due to the “organization” this man was able to practice perverted things with children and get promoted in the congregation.

  • July 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I would just like to first thank Cedars for reporting on this horrific story, as so many of these things never get brought to light. Second, I would like to say, if my niece or nephew or my future children told me these horrific things had happened to them, my first call would be to the authorities, NOT to the elders! Why would you leave it up to elders to decide weather or not to call the authorities when it’s your flesh and blood?! And then when you see nothing has happened, still don’t take matters in your own hands and contact the authorities?!

  • August 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Disgusting! Just makes me think of what Jesus said, ” But if any of you causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose his faith, it would be better for you to have a rock tied to your neck and be thrown into the sea!” No better than any other organization, just bury the bones deeper.

  • August 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    According to the organization, ministerial servants and elders are appointed by Holy Spirit. On the basis of this firm belief, I have to ask, Does the Holy Spirit make mistakes?

    • March 6, 2017 at 9:39 am

      No! These people have no truth in them, Holy Spirit is the truth. If you cover up a crime you are by the definition of the earthly law a criminal let alone by GOD’s law. because they were not with us in the beginning. 1John 2:19 How can anyone in GOD’s family do such a thing? This proves that they are not in GOD’s family. The person that commits the crime and the person that covers it up are both guilty as charged.

  • November 16, 2013 at 12:23 am

    I have been following the story of Campos and am not shocked at all that the GB hides and covers-ups child abuse. It happened in a local congregation here where I lived. The Elder abused a teen and hid it for 30 years! Everyone in the KH was told NOT to talk about it! Can you imagine the lengths these Elders and GB go to to cover up this issue? Also that elder abuser is STILL in the KH with the support of his JW friends who like idiots think he is innocent! They don’t believe the media and think it is lying even though this Elder ADMITTED to the crime! So either the media is lying (why would they need to invent this story when the truth is better than fiction?) or the brother is lying and admitted to a crime he did not commit. This is the type of confusion that the GB spins. The JW’s eat it up like yesterdays leftovers!

    The lawyer Jim McCabe looks creepy!

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