3:06 PM
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.


Kendall Cockrell said...

re: First Civil Lawsuit Filed In Kanakuk Kamp Sex Scandal

It was just a matter of time. I do hope that the attorneys move the case forward with dignity and respect. And I hope Joe and the Kamp act likewise. It is, after all, called "civil" law. The process and people involved will be in my thoughts and prayers

Kendall Cockrell
Attorney and Kanakuk Parent
Beaumont, TX

Anonymous said...

Joe White is an odd duck and he's incredibly misguided in many ways, but I believe he's well-intentioned weirdo and I'd be surprised if he ever hurt a kid. Having a pervert working at these camps was inevitable, though. Those camps are a predator's wet dream for the following reasons: #1. The staff of Kanakuk are incredibly naive (or used to be, anyway), putting total trust in anyone who looks, behaves, and talks like one of their own. (On the flip side, they're incredibly closed to even really well-qualified folks who don't quite fit in with the sub-culture they've created. #2. Camp culture really lends itself to grooming behaviors for a variety of reasons. One is lack of boundaries between staff and kids. When I was a camper, the counselors were with us 24/7, and they were incredibly affectionate with us. To top it off, the showers were communal (boys and men shower in together in one location, girls and women in another). #3. It is not an exaggeration to say that even the most well-intentioned of the Kanakuk folks are obsessed with sex in one way or another, and they talk about sexual issues with surprising openness and regularity, and (to my knowledge) without parental consent. (My parents were amused to find out after the fact that the camp had attempted to influence me on sexual matters. I'm sure others were not so amused.) In fact, at the teen camps, sexual "purity" was such a strong underlying theme that even if you didn't have sex on the brain when you got to camp, you would have by the time you left! Plus, most of the counselors are incredibly cute and fit, with the men often parading around in nothing but shoes and shorts (because, you know, it would be inhumane to ask men NOT to go topless on a hot day). The sexual tension between the adults is palpable, too, because, of course, most of them aren't getting any.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that dozens of predators had successfully used Kanakuk for kid hunting over the decades without anyone being the wiser, and course, like this Peter Newman, they're only ever sorry when they get caught. So, while I don't suspect Joe White of actually being a predator, I do hold him completely responsible for his campers being victimized by a predator. He provided the perfect venue for a predator and didn't even bother to train himself how to spot one, let alone his other staff members. Well done, Joe. You really have done God's work there, buddy.

Anonymous said...

I was a K-1 and K-2 camper for eight years in the 1980's, and the guy who posted above me nailed it on every level. Great post.

Anonymous said...

re: First Civil Lawsuit Filed In Kanakuk Kamp Sex Scandal

I was at this camp for four smmers in the 1970s and the two previous comments did not accurately sum up my experience. Yes, the counselors were affectionate, friendly, and supportive, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Lots of organizations strive for that. I never saw any counselor display any inordinate attention towards any camper, separate them from the group, etc. We were always with other people, and weren't allowed to go off on our own or be absent from activities (which were pretty much planned out for us from dawn to bedtime). They were forever taking roll, patrolling the grounds to make sure we were in our cabins at night, making sure we were with our groups, telling us scary stories to prevent us from straying from the group, etc. The facilities were set up so you were always in sight of a lot of other people. It was fairly stressful if you liked privacy or didn't like such a structured amosphere or being around all those people all the time, but it wasn't as if campers could easily have gone off with someone unnoticed - quite the reverse.

There was certainly no palpable sexual tension in the air - unless it was between the counselors or staff. And even then, it wasn't visible to us - I never saw any obvious flirting, physical affection, or anything like that.

I have no idea where the previous commenter got his idea that the staff were all naive, but I saw evidence they weren't. They were always on the lookout for people who were where they shouldn't have been, absent from group activities, off on their own, or secretive. They were hypervigilant about sex, drugs, drinking, and smoking, and I heard of a few people who were caught and disciplined for that.

I also have no idea how the previous commenters knew what the camps' hiring practices or criteria were. As a camper, I certainly didn't know, except that I knew everyone had to be a Christian and have some kind of athletic or coaching ability, which is in line with what the camps' philosophy is.

I'm also not sure what "attempted to influence me on sexual matters" means, unless the commenter means they tried to influence him not to be sexually active. They had "sex ed" type talks with us, which I noticed were disclosed to parents in the forms. Those talks were something like high school health class, which is to say pretty clinical - but with a good deal of morality and warnings about STDs and pregnancy added in. In retrospect, even if you don't agree with Christian morality or thought it was weird, those talks were well-timed in light of the AIDS epidemic. The segments of society that were advocating loose sexual morals at the time were not doing anyone a favor.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Joe White is doing now? I understand the pedophile Pete Newman is in jail for life, which is good, but from what I understand, Joe White is still traveling around the country raising money for his kamps?? Naked basketball and masturbating in hot tubs does not sound like a Christian camp??

Anonymous said...

The news about Pete was devastating to me and my brother. My brother and I went to Kanakuk every summer for about seven years in the '90s. Pete was my brother's favorite counselor for years. He always hoped he would get into Pete's barn at K-Kountry. My mom really loved Pete because he seemed to take a special interest in my brother. My parents divorced when we were 6 and 4 respectively, and any positive male influence in my brother's life brought great joy to my mom.

My brother said Pete never did anything to him sexually and I totally believe him. But it is so sad to have placed so much trust and admiration in someone who used that to abuse children. I remember one time at K-Kountry, I heard rumors that Pete was took a bunch of boys streaking out by the lake. As a child, I was pretty confused by that.

I last saw Pete when my brother and I were in high school. He was at one of my high school's football games. He had come all the way to Texas to go duck hunting at one of our family friend's ranches. My brother joined the family's two sons, a couple other boys, and Pete on the hunting trip. All the boys were 12-14 years old. Pete had apparently maintained a close relationship with this family and stayed at their house the night before the hunting trip.

It makes me sick to wonder what his motivations may have been to come to Texas.

I'm glad my brother wasn't abused by Pete, but it is very alarming to consider how easily he could have been. Pete was so very trusted and loved by so many children. I hope he feels remorse. I forgive him but I abhor what he did to my fellow campers. Kanakuk was severely tainted in my mind when I learned about Pete's crimes. I wish it wasn't true.