The Watch Tower Society has had its motion against the jury’s verdict in the Candace Conti case denied, despite seeing the final amount of payable damages significantly reduced. The total amount payable by Watchtower now stands at over $11 million, not including interest charges.
Despite this huge setback, on 20th September Watchtower filed a Notice of Appeal, confirming their desire to continue to fight the verdict through an appellate court, or court of appeals. Candace Conti’s legal team is already making preparations in readiness for the new proceedings.
News of this case first broke back in June when it emerged that the Society had lost its first lawsuit in more than 70 years over the mishandling of reported child abuse. The internet was soon awash with the story, which was covered by numerous media organizations. Nearly a week after the news had spread, the Society gave a belated response on their website denying responsibility and indicating that they would appeal the verdict.
Their subsequent motion for JNOV (judgment notwithstanding verdict) has been dismissed, although the judgment has been altered since it was deemed that the damages awarded were excessive. The judge in this case was asked to overrule the jury’s damning verdict that the Society is legally responsible for the abuse suffered by Candace Conti when she was only nine years old, but he has declined to do this and the verdict still stands pending the Watchtower’s appeal.
To view copies of the amended judgment, please click here.
A Losing Battle
At a specially arranged meeting on July 14th, Candace’s solicitor Rick Simons explained why the jury in this case was so repulsed by what happened. Jury members were shocked to learn that the Watchtower’s child abuse policies meant that a known pedophile could potentially call at anyone’s door on a Saturday morning with the backing of his or her local elders. Whatever excuses or explanations the Watchtower’s legal team try to offer, they cannot deny that this scenario is possible thanks to their rigid interpretation of the “two witness rule”, whereby a pedophile can deny charges and be considered innocent so long as there are no other witnesses to the abuse.
It was this unyielding and reckless stance that led to nine-year-old Candace Conti being molested multiple times at the hands of a member of her congregation who was known to the local elders as having molested other children. Despite their knowledge of his disgusting tendencies and criminal behavior, the best they could do was strip him of his position as a ministerial servant – but in so doing they failed to warn parents in the congregation.
By taking these actions, the North Fremont elders weren’t acting of their own volition, but under the written instructions of the United States branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn. Yes, the paper trail led directly to the Society, and try as they may, they were unable to disprove their involvement.
Digging A Hole
The smart thing to do at this stage would be for the Society to recognize that they have erred and take urgent steps to bring their child abuse policies into conformity with the law and the basic principles of community responsibility. However, it seems the Watchtower leadership is driven, not by logic and common sense, but by blind hope that their flawed religious convictions will eventually be vindicated by God – the same God who instructs all of his servants to obey the “superior authorities”. (Romans 13:1)
The Governing Body essentially expects Jehovah to come to their rescue even though they have contravened his principles by disregarding secular law and their responsibility to the community. Such naivety has already been punished in a court of law, and there is no reason to believe that things will be any different as the appeal process drags on.
A Mother’s Support
Standing at Candace’s side throughout this whole emotionally draining process has been her devoted mother, Kathleen Conti. Kathleen, who herself suffered at the hands of a child molester in her youth, is full of pride for the courage and conviction shown by her daughter as she continues her fight to make congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world safer for children.
Kathleen appreciates only too well the huge ramifications of this legal battle, and how it is inspiring others to take a stand. She told JWsurvey: “This is not like a court battle over freedom of religion or their tax status, this is about criminal acts against children.” She has revealed that an increasing number of similar lawsuits are now being planned, inspired by the Conti case, that the Watchtower Society is presently unaware of. She remarked: “It is even worse than I had first heard. This is going to be very bad for them.”
Indeed, the Watch Tower Society will likely feel that the worst is behind them, but Kathleen feels differently. She told me: “It is good that the Watchtower is going to appeal the Conti Case, because within a year a perfect storm that is beyond their comprehension is going to bust open.” It remains to be seen precisely what form this “perfect storm” will take, but it could very well include a barrage of negative media exposure and fresh lawsuits.
We will have to wait and see what the future brings. However, it seems the shock waves from the Candace Conti verdict continue to reverberate. By all accounts, things are likely to get much worse for the Society unless they can somehow summon the humility and wisdom to yield to urgent calls for change, and take more seriously their grave responsibility to protect the children under their stewardship.
To read this article in Hungarian, please click here.
You can read my other articles on the Candace Conti verdict by clicking here.
36 thoughts on “Watchtower files appeal after JNOV motion is denied”
Fantastic article Cedars.
I wish all the best to Candace and Kathleen for their bravery in pursuit of justice.
I hope this case really does open the floodgates and gives many other victims the courage and strength to take on this cult.
Thank you for shedding light on the way the Jehovah’s Witnesses deal with child abuse. Calling themselves Witnesses of the Almighty is a farce when they don’t protect their most vulnerable members…even after ample evidence of wrongdoing is provided. I pray that Jehovah God will discipline them appropriately for bringing shame upon his name.
Thanks for keeping us posted,this you do so well.Unfortuntely accumulated interest does not come out of any GB’s pockets,but from the JW flock they fleece.My own grandfather gave the WBTS his fortune and I too gave them tens of thousands when I was younger making big bucks-Danny Haszard
All the best for Candace.hope you get justice.many people have tried to stand up to the governing body and failed.pigheaded mere men who think they have god on their side.so much pain they have caused and they claim they are gods theocratic organization on earth.so wrong.
so she was awarded $24 million after the amend? not bad at all…
No! The figure currently stands at just over $11 million payable by Watchtower, not including interest.
Time permitting, please add a ‘compound interest counter’ above the Watchtower temperature sign to keep the brethren abreast of the current tally.
it’s about time this damned cult is brought to its knees. I admire Conti’s actions and implore others to come out of the dark and expose the hidden corruption of this false religion! And yes, I know what I’m talking about- I was a JW for 15 long years and I regret every second of my wasted life.
So what would be an alternative to the ‘2 witness rule’ to establish guilt of a (religious) sin by local elders (who have no authority to search houses, run dna-tests or investigate whatsoever)?
An “alternative” as you put it would be to let the authorities get on with their God-assigned role of determining guilt when a crime has been committed, and to accept their verdict.
The police reports and a guilty verdict are both accepted as ‘second’ (ord third) witnesses by the judicial committees.
Not so. There are accounts of pedophiles still remaining in “good standing” even though they’re behind bars. Feel free to show me the page in the Shepherd book (2010) where it says a court verdict is admissable as a “second witness”. A witness to what? The jury wasn’t there when it happened.
I do not own a copy of that book (edition). But in most cases the verdict will be motivated or at least sustained by substantional evidence found in the file (and accessible by the victim or its lawyer), e.g. found forensic evidence on the victim’s body, testimonies of other victims, improper material found in the house of the perpetrator, previous transgressions found in the criminal record, testimonies by expert-psychiatrists, reports by eyewitnesses, etc.
Strong indirect evidence is also accepted by the judicial committees as are two witnesses of wrongdoing in separate incidents.
‘Being behind bars’ is not the same as being convicted (custody) and the judicial committee can take ‘real remorse’ into account, which is not as relevant in secular law. Anyway in most cases i presume the organisation will not jeopardize its reputation and therefore the easiest way is disfellowshipping a person who is already enjailed when strong evidence points to his guilt.
If you don’t own a copy of the elder’s manual, then you are clearly not in a position to declare what would or wouldn’t be accepted as evidence by a judicial committee. The fact that Jonathan Kendrick was still in “good standing” as of July this year despite having been convicted for child abuse in 2004 should tell you everything. You presume wrongly that the organization will automatically disfellowship someone for being incarcerated or convicted for child abuse. In the eyes of the elders, the findings of the authorities and their own judicial process are two entirely different matters. This is why no allowance is made for intervention by the authorities in the elder’s manual when deciding guilt in these matters, even though there should be.
Also, as I have highlighted in other articles, the gathering of evidence is often impeded by the Society’s insistence on being the first point of contact by congregation elders. Elders, who must always contact the Society first, are under the impression that whether or not to contact the authorities is left to the discretion of the Society or the victim, but in practicality the victim (or the victim’s family) is often told that the elders will deal with it, and the Society orders the elders to launch an “investigation” (dependent on the two witness rule) thus allowing any evidence to go stale.
I don’t mean to patronize you if you are genuine, but from your comments it sounds as though either (1) you have never been an elder, or (2) you are otherwise entirely unfamiliar with how these matters are handled.
I referred to the passage from the online version of the ‘pay attention’-manual (1992 edition) on acceptable evidence, so i will ignore your argumentum ad verecundiam.
Whether or not a guilty verdict should automatically be accepted by an ecclesiactical disciplinary committee depends on a person’s view of the separation between church and state.
I was merely pointing out that in the course of justice frequently a second witness will be found. It is also normal that a mere testimony of one person will normally not be sufficient to establish wrongdoing beyond any reasonable doubt.
Further to my comment, please refer to page 111 of the “Pay Attention” book under the heading “What kind of evidence is acceptable?” You will find that a criminal conviction is mentioned nowhere as suitable evidence.
Rob – do you have the page number of precisely where in the Pay Attention book it says that a criminal conviction can be accepted as sufficient evidence in lieu of a second witness? I doubt you will be able to provide one, because it seems most of your argumentation doesn’t reflect the way things are done organizationally.
Also, the acceptance of a criminal conviction as evidence has nothing to do with the “seperation between church and state”, because the scriptures tell us the superior authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God to deliberate over such matters. This isn’t about politics, this is about criminal law enforcement! If you are so keen on the seperation of church and state, then perhaps you can explain why the Watch Tower Society was registered as an NGO with the United Nations for 9 years, and only withdrew its membership once it received media attention?
You say “in the course of justice frequently a second witness will be found”. I’m not sure you’ve thought this through at all. How many child abusers arrange to have another person in the room with them when they are molesting a child? It’s frankly sickening that you can express the same ignorance that the Society shows in demanding that a child who is molested behind closed doors (as is usually the case) should be able to produce a witness or otherwise have his or her claims ignored.
I’m not a wt apologetic. Any society owes it to itself to protect the innocent against wrongdoing. It seems the WT policies or the way these policies are applied failed to do so (at least in many cases as is shown by numerous documentaries in various countries). This is sad and needs to be addressed and i’m glad that society in general, and the courts in particular, take child abuse cases more seriously (whether it is in catholic church, WT or a youth club).
You fail to notice that a second witness is any evidence (indirect or circumstancial) that can correborate the testimony of the victim (i mentioned some in my previous posts). So you do not need an eyewitness. You just need something more substantial than one testimony (unless there is a a confession).
This can be all kind of things: dna-evidence, diary notes of the perpetrator, found improper material, other testimonies in different cases etc…). In many cases, the investigation of the secular authorities will find sth.
Sometimes unfounded accusations do happen (e.g. accusations of incest in difficult divorce cases). So to ask for some kind of additional evidence does not seem unreasonable to me before sanctioning a person. That’s why i think the 2 witness rule is not so problematic. Far more problematic is the attitude of not informing the proper secular authorities and not informing congregations about known perpetrators amongst them.
Your view of the separation of state and church is valid, but there are also other valid views concerning this point.
The fact that the WT society in your view also transgresses the separation between state and church in the NGO-case (although an NGO is not even a state organ at all), is not relevant for this topic (i fear). In the best case scenario you might prove the WT is inconsistent or hyprocritical.
You write: ‘Also, the acceptance of a criminal conviction as evidence has nothing to do with the “seperation between church and state”, because the scriptures tell us the superior authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God to deliberate over such matters.’ First, I do not believe the bible has any particular value (and certainly not for the political-legal construction of our modern society), so i fail to see why you are referencing to the bible at all. Second, criminal law enforcement happens by state organs, i don’t think the local elders are enforcing criminal law when they are disciplining someone (they have no authority to do so). Private law enforcement might exist in the form of informing and co-operating with police and law enforcement.
But i agree with you (in content): I also think the final conviction by a court (provided there was a fair process) should be enough to prove wrongdoing, but this does not seem to be the case yet. I thought i heard this on a video post from the society, but may be i’m mistaken.
Rob, you say “I’m not a wt apologetic” and “I do not believe the bible has any particular value”. That being the case, why are you defending the Society’s arcane use of the Mosaic “two witness rule” in determining guilt over criminal matters in the 21st century? Using it to determine guilt over issues of sin is all very well – but criminal offences where the police have jurisdiction? Should the elders also be applying the two witness rule to decide whether someone is guilty of murder?
You don’t seem to grasp the point that child molestation by its very nature hardly ever has another witness to the crime. One thing you CAN do to determine guilt in such cases is examine things such as DNA evidence, which the authorities are equipped, trained and authorized to do. Therefore it is imperative they they are contacted straight away as soon as any allegation is made, and that any resulting conviction is used to warn other parents regardless of what “position” the person subsequently enjoys in the congregation. How can this contravene scripture – scripture that you do not believe “has any particular value”?
If you read page 111 of the Pay Attention book again you will see that strong circumstancial evidence is admissable (attested by at least two witnesses), but again, you miss the point that there is hardly ever any such “circumstancial evidence” made available when an adult molests a child. Is a man going into his daughter’s bedroom sufficient evidence to indict him as a child molester? I doubt it. Again, you fail to explore the practical ramifications of these extremely sensitive and important issues.
Finally, it was you who brought up the issue of church and state separation and not me. I maintain that this issue has nothing to do with that subject, and I brought up the UN/NGO scandal to illustrate a genuine example of this argument would be relevant.
I’m glad we seem to agree on many things, but I’m at a loss to explain why you defend such clearly inadequate and dangerous policies with such voracity, especially since you claim to have no agenda.
I do not agree with you on one point. I believe in many cases strong circumstantial evidence existis in child abuse cases and incriminating evidence will be found. In most cases the perpetrator makes several victims over a longer period of time before one of the victims speaks out. So in many cases you are bound to have several testimonies (and seperate testimonies are accepted by the judicial committees).
In that period of time the perpetrator has developed a behaviour pattern and over time he becomes more careless with covering his traces (very often incriminating pictures are to be found, he organised sleepovers for other children, puts the children in a bath (which is later noticed by the parents as odd), children start to behave in paricular manner (e.g. obscure their sexuality), children display certain specific knowledge, language (‘my secret’) or show psycho-somatic symptomps that can’t be faked, partners of perpetrators might have developed suspicions by that time and find typically semen on the sheets or notice deviant sexual behaviour etc.). Sometimes there is misplaced loyalty, shame or guilt from the victims/partners and they will not come forward. But still, very often a trustworthy testimony will be corroborated by evidence. Thus a proper police report will very often bring circumstanticial evidence. However it presupposes a thorough and timely (in case of DNA evidence) investigation by the informed secular authorities.
Rob – so you believe in accumulating several victims so as to acquire enough “circumstancial” evidence to indict a child molester of wrongdoing? I am only too happy to disagree profusely on this point. The whole point of getting the authorities involved straight away is to prevent there from being any further victims. I find it sad that you can take such a twisted approach to this very serious matter.
You also say “Thus a proper police report will very often bring circumstanticial evidence.” How is a police report “evidence”? By its very nature, a police investigation is not evidence, but merely the police performing their duty of trying to establish whether an offence has been committed. It cannot and would not be accepted as evidence of wrongdoing by elders in lieu of witness testimony. This is neither the policy of the Society in its written instructions to elders, nor is it the way things happen in practice.
Can I ask you a straight question, have you ever actually served as an elder? It sounds like you haven’t.
Your style and line of reasoning have become somewhat polemic and even dishonest in presenting my point of view, so i will not even dignify your post with an answer. Good luck to you.
I struggle to see how I’ve been dishonest in presenting your point of view when I’ve been careful to quote you whenever making key points.
I remain quite astonished that you can fight the Watchtower’s corner (and the “two witness rule” in particular) so vehemently over such a cut-and-dried issue when you say you are not a WT apologist and even dismiss the bible as not having “any practical value”.
I also note that you haven’t answered my question as to whether you’ve ever served as an elder.
I’m going to jump into this discussion and add my own view of how elders deal with accusations of child abuse. Prior to a judicial committee meeting, the elders already know how they will vote or what their decision will be. You can see how this works while listening to a few tape recordings made during these proceedings. It is clear that their minds are made up – or they have been told by the Watchtower’s Service Department what decision they should deliver. In only very rare cases does the testimony of either the accused or accuser during the judicial meeting ever have a direct effect on the outcome.
Rob, on September 23 you wrote:
“You fail to notice that a second witness is any evidence (indirect or circumstancial) that can correborate the testimony of the victim (i mentioned some in my previous posts). So you do not need an eyewitness. You just need something more substantial than one testimony (unless there is a a confession)…This can be all kind of things: dna-evidence, diary notes of the perpetrator, found improper material, other testimonies in different cases etc…”
This is rarely the case in real life. In chapter five her book, “Going Undercover to Rescue My Daughter,” Nancy J. Sage
relates what happened during the judicial meeting involving her daughter and granddaughter. Nancy’s son-in-law, an elder at the time, had molested Nancy’s daughter when she was 11 years old and his own daughter (the granddaughter) when she was a teenager. Both young women appeared before the committee and related their evidence in response to the WT’s “two witness rule.” The elders rejected the testimony of both former Witness girls because they were no longer JWs and because they didn’t personally witness each other being molested (different times, different states). Here were two young girls giving clear evidence that this man, an elder, had committed repeated rapes over a period of several years – and the elders would not accept the word of either victim. Last I heard, this man is still serving as an elder or MS in the USA.
I have received many credible reports of JWs being DFd without even a hearing – and with no appeal – on the flimsiest of evidence. Unbaptized members are being “marked” for many reasons, often unsupported by any physical evidence or corroborating witnesses.
But for some reason, the WT still wants to protect child molesters and petty criminals through their application of the “two witness rule.” Where is the logic in this?
Hi, I just found this site by accident, and I’m shocked to see something so close to home. I was in the Fremont North congregation until about 1986. I was a young girl when I moved away, and I don’t remember Candace (who was either an infant, or possibly had not been born at the time that I moved). I also don’t remember the perp. Does anyone know when the creep moved to that congregation? Fortunately there weren’t a lot of kids in the hall at the time for him to victimize, and I have no memory of him, so it’s highly unlikely that he did anything to me.
I hope Candace and other victims are doing well in recovery. Candace has certainly shown herself to have a survivor spirit! I hope other young ones can be like her, and stand up to this horrible scandal in the congregations. I’ve seen similar victimization in my own family, and the congregation subsequently hiding it, which is part of why I left the religion.
I just don’t understand how anyone could use a child like that, regardless of the religion of the perp. How nice it would be to have faith that a “new system” would soon bring an end to such atrocities, but I’ve learned to live in reality, rather than in the society’s fairy tales.
The problem in their thinking is first that the FDS believe that such accused men are part of the “belongings” they have authority over, so when an accusation is made, they use the phrase, congregational action.’
Here’s the confusion: “Thus, although they investigate every allegation, the elders are not authorized by the Scriptures to take congregational action unless there is a confession or there are two credible witnesses. However, even though the elders are not authorized to take congregation action when there is only one witness, the elders should remain vigilant with regard to the conduct and activity of the accused.” BOE.
This ‘advise’ (actually orders) that is given makes no mention of the civil authorities. The WT Child Protection Policy says that ‘anyone’ can report accusations to the secular authorities. Does this mean elders who hear a perpetrator’s confession? What about allegations and accusations? If they did would they not have a conflict of interest – the WT’s ‘keep in inhouse’ instructions against their Christian Bible-trained conscience to apply Romans 13:1,2?
If parents or other congregation members choose to report such matters to the police, can the WT guarantee that there will be no comeback for the informant?
The fact that it is reported that there are over 23,000 REPORTED child molesters on the WT’s paedophile list shows that few historically believed they would have the ‘perfect right’ to go to the civil authorities!
Child abuse is a crime and needs to be handled by law enforcement and parents warned of potential danger. Elders can determine repentance but not guilt. Children come first to a loving God!
Update on The Fifth Estate CBC program [whistle-blower] – its supposed to be on Canadian TV tonight @ 9 oclock. Repeated again Sun night. Supposed to be about a young woman who is now a tattoo’ed musical artist – exJW. This could be pre-empted by our Canadian hockey strike situation…
What? You’re appealing to the same Jehovah God to rectify what he allowed to occur in the first place?
This case is an answer to our Prayers…
May Jehovah Bless Candice Conti for her bravery and all others who have the strength to fight this wicked evil slave
We were Jehovah’s witness for over 25 years and are the grandparents of of two lovely teenagers
Our beautiful daughter married a ministerial servant and they had children. It turned out he stopped going to the meetings after the wedding and was an alcoholic. He was abusive to our girl and eventually sexually abused the children.
I believe the elders and his parents (50 years in the TRUTH) knew about his antics before the marriage and kept quite we believe our daughter was targeted in the 1st place.
The Elders were not happy when the police were called in and we have suffered persecution they protected him and never disfellowshiped him allowed him to attend meeting and walk freely at assemblies and conventions we have left the organization, but remain close to our heavenly father Jehovah!
It is unbelievable the amount of brothers and sister who have disclosed personal experience of child abuse of either there children or themselves and the disgraceful inhuman way in which it was handled… “This disgusting thing” rife in organization please believe me brothers, you need alert and be aware
We Pray that Jehovah ” The God of tender loving mercies” will reveal all this through the courts and wipe out this governing body that have set themselves up as a golden calf.
Well oh! well!!! Is this case completely over? Some other posts says an appeal is set for a later date. My biggest concern is that my wife, daughter and son are JWs and I am not. Actually I did not completely care, but since I knew about this incident I started to worry about. I can talk for my family and I can post on this website that they are really mind controlled. I dont argue with them since I just got tired since they started joining the local kingdon hall approximately ten years ago. I will continue prayiing for my family so that the real truth shine on their hearts.
Hi Faby We will continue to pray for your family…
I am convinced that the real Truth will come soon I heard somewhere that there are many cases to follow this one then, this evil slave will be toppled and your loved ones released will be released from the mind controlling sect. Please don’t be too harsh on them I was in the re control for 25 years and its not until you step back you can see as plain as day what they truly are but it has taken us 10 years to learn and 12 months to brealk the twine that enslaved us. We still live by Bible principles and our own conscience a thing not allowed in the organization. e Know longer are controlled by the Watchtower
I was once told by a zealous elder that we never needed to go to the outside world, that everything could be handled and decided by the elders. I knew that wasn’t right; even though the amount of weekly child support the elder decided my ex (a bible study at the time) should pay was the about same as the court later decided-it was by going through family court and having them decide to have the amount deducted right from his paycheck that made it possiblr for our child to REALLY get that support!
I should add that I felt I needed to write to the WT societyfor clarification on whether to use the family court system to legalize this matter and they agreed that there is nothing wrong with the courts deciding on such matters!
Hi a few months ago I had written a letter to the body of elders they pretty much had ignored my letter so I wrote to the circuit overseer he pretty much ignored me as well my thought was if I as a mature christian got ignored what chance does a. Child ever have? The society like to use worldly authorities when it suits them such as appeals to the world high court how ever went something happens from within there quick to say oh we’ll deal with the matter to hide it but what is really amazing is that our heavenly father never ever his anything in the bible he is quite frank with us about all the bad thing that worshippers did..
I was a JW for 10 years and wondered how it seemed that the organization had no child molesters. I took it as proof that they were God’s organization. Now I see that it was an illusion created by secretive policies that err on the side of protecting the organization’s reputation. Child molesters get into any organization once it gets big enough but how an organization deals with the problem is what is telling. It sickens me that in the Conti case and others that the Watchtower is fighting to maintain the legal right of organizations to not have to warn others of child molesters in their membership.
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