|Peter Daniel Newman prison mug shot|
The first civil lawsuit has been filed in the Kanakuk Kamp sex scandal involving former camp counselor Peter D. Newman. It is anticipated that there will be several more filed in the coming weeks.
The Turner Report broke the story today that Newman, who is serving two life sentences plus thirty years in prison for the sex crimes, K-Kamp, Inc. (formerly known as Kanakuk Kamp, Inc.) and Kanakuk Ministries are listed as the defendants in the lawsuit which was filed January 31st.
Attorney Michael E. Merrell (full disclosure he is Taney County prosecutor Jeff Merrell's father) is the local attorney for the plaintiff, listed as John Doe (J. G.), in court filings. The elder Merrell says he and his son handle different types of law, "I'm a civil lawyer and he handles criminal cases. We agreed 12 years ago not to discuss cases outside of the office."
Mike Merrell says he was contacted by Alabama attorney G. Rick DiGiorgio, who is the lead counsel on this case, and asked if he would be the local contact and go to man for a civil lawsuit involving Kanakuk and Newman.
|Pete Newman as he appeared in a Kanakuk Kamp brochure|
Online court records indicate those served are Newman, Joe White as the registered agent for K-Kamp, and Donald Frank as the registered agent for Kanakuk Ministries.-
In February of last year Newman pleaded guilty, without a plea agreement, to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and three counts of enticement of a child in Taney County.
One part of the probable cause statement filed with the charges in September of 2009 offered an insight into how Newman enticed kids at the Christian camp to play naked basketball and take part in nude bible study in a hot tub if they masturbated with him, or performed sex acts on him, it wouldn't be a sin:
"Between 2005 and 2008, Pete Newman became a close friend of by attending family dinners, sleepovers, bible studies, taking vacations together and writing letters. Pete would hold one-on-one sessions with (the boy) in Pete's hot tub (at Pete's residence) and would request they be naked. Pete would discuss life's struggles with (him) and talk about masturbation. Pete would explain that if (the boy) would masturbate with him in his hot tub then there would be no lust and therefore (the boy) would not be sinning."
One of the boys told sheriff's investigators that he and Newman masturbated together 10 times over four years. Another victim told authorities that the mutual masturbation led to oral sex when the youngster turned 15.
During sentencing for Newman last June, Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell asked Dr. Joseph Plaud, the defenses psychologist expert, if he was aware of a situation at Kanakuk in 2003 where Newman signed a probationary agreement acknowledging sexual improprieties with young boys. Plaud responded that he was.
In court documents filed in the civil lawsuit against Kanakuk and Newman, attorney's allege that officials at Kanakuk knew about Newman's inappropriate behavior with young boys as far back as 1999.
The plaintiff, who is now 19 years old, says the abuse started when he was twelve and that the Christian based youth camp swept reports of Newman's sexual abuse of campers under the rug and continued to employ him because he generated a huge amount of revenue for the company.
In a cost saving measure for the camp Newman often asked families that had children active in Kanakuk's ministry if he could stay in their home while he was plugging "purity" for the camp. At the time of those visits the families were unaware that Newman was either sexually abusing their children or attempting to groom them for sexual abuse.
John Doe - J. G. - says Newman's sexual abuse has caused him emotional distress, at times making him suicidal, and have made him question his sexuality since his first sexual encounter was with a man. The lawsuit says the camp is guilty of fraud and failing to act as a reasonable person would expect camp staff to act in the place of a parent. It seeks unspecified damages and attorney's have asked for a jury trial
Sex charges were filed against Newman in La Plata County, Colorado following a similar incident with a young boy at Kanakuk's K-Colorado facility (which was sold to White's daughter and son-in-law and has been renamed KIVU) in September of 2008. Those charges were dismissed following Newman being sentenced to two life terms.
Former lead investigator for the Colorado case Sam Eggleston said at the time, "Prosecutors here were pleased with the sentences that Newman received in Missouri and don't think pursuing charges against him here would add anything to the sentences he is already serving there."
Because the charges in Colorado were dismissed without prejudice, prosecutors there can refile them at any time. "Colorado does not a have a statutory time limit for charging someone with any offense involving a sexual assault on a child," said Eggleston.
Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and other states had expressed interest in pursuing similar charges against Newman. It is unclear if those states will follow Colorado's lead.
Mike Merrell says that at this point he and DiGiorgio are only representing one client. "If there are other victims out there who want to join our lawsuit, we'd be happy to have them. We discussed filing this lawsuit in federal court but decided to go the state route at this time."
Newman is now housed at Jefferson City Correctional Facility. The address he was served with the most recent lawsuit ironically is named No More Victims.