A lawsuit has been filed against Kanakuk Heritage, Inc., Kanakuk Ministries and camp owner and president Joe White in Taney County Associate Circuit Court. A 50-page petition filed on behalf of the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe IX, shares details of a case involving a previous camp director’s guilty plea to statutory sodomy and enticement of a child. According to the documents, Kanakuk and its president knew of the sexual abuse, but did nothing to stop it or prevent it.
The suit is the latest of several that have been filed against the company and Newman since Newman was sentenced in 2010.
John Doe IX, who was a minor at the time the incidents took place, is represented by Craig Heidemann and the law firm of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC.
“In February 2010, Peter Newman pleaded guilty in Taney County to several counts of statutory sodomy and child enticement involving child abuse of a boy on Kanakuk property between approximately 2005 and 2008,” records state. “In 2003, defendants White and Kanakuk had actual knowledge that defendant Newman continued to engage in activities with children at Kanakuk camps that involved defendant Newman and the children becoming naked together.”
Despite that knowledge, documents state, Kanakuk and White continued to employ Newman.
“Defendants Kanakuk Ministries and Kanakuk Heritage chose to protect the sexual predator rather than the children,” the petition states.
The documents state that the defendants’ motivation for continuing to employ Newman was financial “in his reputation among kampers was such that it engendered return visits to kamp and more money for” the defendants.
The report states that Kanakuk did not limit Newman’s access to boys.
“Instead, Kanakuk promoted Newman inside the camp and to the world as a good, inspiring, Christian role model who developed deep connections to boys,” documents state. “Newman’s inappropriate nudity and private sleepovers with boys were not disclosed to the public, including John Doe IX’s parents until after Kanakuk was sued by one of Newman’s sexual abuse victims in 2011.”
With knowledge of three separate events, the result should have been Newman’s dismissal, documents state.
“(The defendants) chose to keep Newman as the director of K-Kountry with unfettered access to the Kanakuk grounds,” documents state.
One of the events was named in the report.
“In a separate 2006 report, a father of another boy complained to Kris Cooper (a Kanakuk Kamp manager) about Newman’s late-night calls and texts to his son,” documents state. “After the father made this complaint, Newman continued as the director of K-Kountry.”
The documents make mention of Newman’s incomplete work application when he filled it out at age 19.
“Newman’s personnel file is filled with evaluations that would have or should have placed a reasonably prudent residential camp on notice that Newman was suspect and should not continue to work around children,” documents state.
Some of those comments include:
• “He is so focused on the kids he doesn’t have time for counselors.”
• “He doesn’t have much contact with the girls side as far as counselors.”
• “He always hangs with the kids.”
• “Always with kids.”
• “Writes every boy.”
• “Visits old kids at other Kamps every term.”
These actions should have been a red flag to the defendants, documents indicate.
“A reasonably prudent residential camp would have or should have been concerned about Newman spending a disproportionate amount of his time with boys instead of adults or his wife,” documents state.
Because of his personnel file, documents state “that Kanakuk Ministries and/or Kanakuk Heritage, Inc. could have and should have investigated this earlier.”
“Had they (investigated), they would have learned that this ‘Bible study’ consisted of group and mutual masturbation,” documents state.
The lawsuit goes on to state that educational materials such as “Camp Director’s Guide: Preventing Sexual Exploitation of Children” were distributed for free to camps from 1988 to 1990 in the U.S. and Canada.
“In spite of the ready availability of this information, Kris Cooper, a Kanakuk Kamp manager, and Joe White, the owner and president of Kanakuk Kamps, testified that they didn’t consider sexual abuse as a possible issue,” documents state.
Videos depicting counselor-to-camper contact were available to residential camps as early as 1992, documents state.
“Although materials of this type were available as early as 1992, Kanakuk Kamps chose not to use them,” documents state. “In fact, Kanakuk failed to have even a written policy on sexual abuse until 2011; 19 years after materials to educate staff were readily available in the marketplace and more than 23 years after the Camp Directors Guide: Preventing Sexual Exploitation of Children was first available.”
Documents indicate that if the defendants had availed themselves of educational materials on child sexual abuse at camp, “they would have been alerted to the ways in which Newman’s pattern of behavior between 1999 and 2003 fits behavior that describes potential pedophiles.”
No one from Kanakuk told parents, including John Doe IX’s parents, of Newman’s long history of sexual abuse, “including, but not limited to nudity and one-on-one sleepovers with minor boys,” documents state.
Rather than putting Newman on some sort of probation, his employer did the opposite, documents state.
“Kanakuk promoted Newman as the face of Kanakuk and was featured prominently in promotional videotapes and written materials that were displayed and distributed to potential campers and their parents, including John Doe IX and his parents,” documents state.
Many of the promotional features had testimonials, including one from White, documents state. White said, “Pete Newman is the most thorough relationship builder with kids in Kanakuk history. This guy has a raging love for God and it spills over constantly to the kids at kamp. A weekend with Pete will build a father-son relationship that will never be the same.”
The petition brings 12 counts against the defendants.
Documents state that the only reason Newman was allowed access to the plaintiff was due to White and Kanakuk’s sponsorship of Newman “as a good, wholesome role model for boys.”
Kanakuk failed to have Newman evaluated by a psychologist to “avoid the mandatory reporting statutes,” documents state.
Negligent Supervision of a Child
Documents state the defendants owed the minor a duty to keep him safe.
“Given their duty to keep plaintiff safe, and given what they already knew about defendant Newman’s tendencies, the childhood sexual abuse suffered by the plaintiff was foreseeable and should have been prevented,” documents state.
Negligent Supervision of Employee
As part of “their business enterprise,” Kanakuk and White possessed the ability to supervise Newman as much or as little as “they deemed necessary,” documents state.
“Defendants Kanakuk and White owed plaintiff a duty to appropriately supervise and control their employees so as not to harm the plaintiff as they engaged in their income-generating business of running camps and programs for children,” documents state
As Newman’s employers, they are “vicariously liable” for his conduct, documents state.
“Defendants White and Kanakuk had actual knowledge that defendant Newman was engaging in nude observation of children, nude exhibition to children, and in activities that presented a high-risk for the sexual abuse of children to occur,” documents state.
Newman sexually abused the plaintiff, all while representing that his conduct was sanctioned by the camp, documents state.
“(By) stating that the nude games were a form of camp bonding,” documents said. “(By) stating that the nude games and sexual abuse were forms of personal development sanctioned by defendants White and Kanakuk.”
Intentional Failure to Supervise
Newman was reprimanded privately at least on two occasions for engaging in this conduct, documents state.
“Defendants White and Kanakuk therefore deliberately and intentionally failed to supervise defendant Newman in an appropriate way,” documents state.
One of those appropriate ways would have included ending Newman’s employment, documents state.
Invasion of Privacy
As a minor, the plaintiff could not give consent to being viewed in the nude, documents state.
“Additionally, defendant Newman taught plaintiff that these nude observations were ‘normal’ and not a cause for concern; therefore he did not understand the implications of the episodes,” documents state.
Childhood Sexual Abuse: Defendant Newman
Newman engaged in childhood sexual abuse with the plaintiff, documents state, including nudity and viewing the plaintiff masturbate.
Newman was convicted of sexual abuse.
Premises Liability: Defendants White and Kanakuk
“At all times relevant, Defendants White and Kanakuk owned and operated property used for the education and entertainment of children,” documents state. “(They) failed to take any steps to warn plaintiff of this danger or to protect him from this danger.”
According to the lawsuit, the defendants actively tried to keep Newman’s sexual abuse away from the public light.
Some of the steps involved:
• “Misrepresenting the safety of leaving a child alone with Newman.”
• “Aiding and abetting Newman’s abuse.”
• “Failing to take any action to stop the abuse it knew was occurring.”
• “Failing to provide a safe environment for the children who relied upon them for their care, nurturance and support.”
• “Enforcing the secrecy around the acts and/or teaching the plaintiff that the acts were normal or necessary to the relationship.”
• “Representing that Newman was in good standing.”
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
The plaintiff alleges that “the actions and omissions of these defendants have negligently inflicted emotional distress,” documents state.
Negligence: Defendant Peter Newman
Newman’s conduct was the substantial cause of severe emotional and mental distress the plaintiff experienced, documents state.
“Defendant’s actions were evil, wanton, willful, malicious and in conscious disregard to plaintiff’s right justifying an award of punitive damages which would serve to punish defendant and deter defendant and others from engaging in like conduct in the future,” documents state.
The petition does not ask for a specific settlement, but requests “a fair and reasonable sum,” including attorney’s fees.
Newman is currently serving more than two life sentences at the Jefferson City Correctional Center after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and two counts of enticement of a child.
The current suit is at least the fifth filed against Kanakuk, Newman or White. A suit filed in January 2011 in Taney County court by a defendant identified as John Doe J.G. was dismissed without prejudice in April.
Another state case filed in Taney County in 2013 by John Doe DK, Jane Doe DN and John Doe DA was transferred to Christian County court in 2014 and is scheduled for a jury trial in April 2016.
A case against Kanakuk and Newman filed in federal court in Texas in 2011 on behalf of a John Doe and Jane Doe was terminated in 2013. Documents about the termination are sealed.
Another federal case filed in Texas by John Doe III was filed in August 2013 and was terminated earlier this week. Court documents show the case was terminated because “All matters in controversy between the parties have been resolved.” The case was dismissed with each party bearing its own costs.