An amended petition filed late last month in a Kanakuk Kamps lawsuit alleges that both Kanakuk Kamps CEO Kris Cooper and Kanakuk Kamp President Joe White had knowledge of, and covered up, sexual abuse occurring at the camp.
The amendment to the civil lawsuit involving an unnamed plaintiff who was a 12-year-old minor at the time of the abuse, was filed in Taney County in 2011, but moved to Christian County last year after a request was granted for a change of venue.
The amended petition is asking the court to add Cooper and White as defendants based on new information that has come to light.
The case is against Kanakuk Kamps, Inc., Kanakuk Ministries, Kanakuk Heritage, Inc., Joe White, Kris Cooper and Peter Daniel Newman.
Newman pleaded guilty in 2010 to three counts of first-degree sodomy, three counts of second-degree sodomy and two counts of enticement of a child.
He is currently serving his two life-plus-30-years sentences in Jefferson City.
According to the amended petition, both Cooper and White received notice that Newman, while acting as a Bible study leader and mentor to a boy, encouraged the child to take his clothes off and ride a four-wheeler on K-Kountry property with Newman. Cooper, White and Kanakuk failed or refused to document the date of the “naked four-wheeling” incident and further failed or refused to interview witnesses who may have possessed knowledge of the incident, the petition states.
Despite receiving an admission from Newman that he had, in fact, engaged in “naked four-wheeling” with the boy, the defendants failed or refused to investigate whether Newman had engaged in other inappropriate or illegal activity with boys in the Bible study or elsewhere, the petition states.
The document also states that defendants White and Cooper were the two employees of Kanakuk who possessed the authority to hire and fire Newman. The defendants either failed or refused to suspend, fire or terminate Newman following the “naked four-wheeling” incident, the petition states.
Newman also encouraged the boys to visit him at Kanakuk, where Newman would sleep alone with them in a tent, in the gym or elsewhere on Kanakuk property, the petition stated. According to the document, defendants Cooper and Kanakuk knew about the sleepovers as early as 2001.
The document also states that Will Cunningham, who also supervised Newman but lacked the authority to fire him, warned Newman his private sleepovers with the boys were against the policies and procedures of Kanakuk. Cooper, according to the documents, did not deem Newman’s private sleepovers with individual boys to be wrong, even though it violated Kanakuk’s policies and procedures.
According to the petition, Cooper and Kanakuk failed or refused to investigate the private sleepovers or ask the boys involved whether Newman encouraged them to get naked or whether he touched them. The petition also states that despite having knowledge that Newman had engaged in inappropriate activities, including “naked four-wheeling” and private sleepovers with boys, Kanakuk allowed and encouraged Newman to continue his work as assistant camp director and to promote himself all across America as an expert on teenage “sexual purity,” according to the petition.
Kanakuk developed and maintained its “winter trail” policy, which included both formal and informal trips by Kanakuk employees in the off-season to local communities for the purpose of marketing the camp, the petition stated. In order to save travel expense money, Kanakuk employees, including Newman, were permitted and encouraged to make travel and lodging arrangements with campers’ families which would include alone time with children, which gave Newman the opportunity to sleep in the same room with children, the petition stated.
Through Kanakuk’s “winter trail” process, Newman made contact with families in the Little Rock, Ark., area. Following Kanakuk’s policies, Newman asked for and received lodging in the homes of the campers, the document stated. Newman used his role as a Christian role model to make his way into the homes of his victims, according to the document. The plaintiff was a 12 year-old seventh-grader when Newman introduced him to his concept of sexual “purity,” the document alleges.
According to the document, Newman sexually abused the child for the first time by convincing him to engage in a sexual with him on or about Feb. 7, 2003. Then on Feb. 28, 2003, defendants Cooper, White and Kanakuk were notified that in the fall of 2002, Newman, while acting as director of a father-son retreat for Kanakuk, had convinced two boys to take their clothes off with Newman and play basketball, go streaking and skinny dipping on Kanakuk property, according to the document. When Cunningham, director of K-Kountry, learned of this incident of Newman engaging in naked recreational activities with two more boys, he recommended to Cooper that Newman be fired, according to the documents.
According to the amended petition, Kanakuk then contemplated hiring a psychologist to evaluate Newman during the spring of 2003, because, in part, Cooper felt unsure about whether Newman was a pedophile at that time. The psychological evaluation of Newman never occurred, however, because of the concern that Newman would be reported to the Division of Family Services, the petition alleges. Ultimately, Cooper and White rejected Cunningham’s recommendation to fire Newman and, instead, decided to allow Newman to keep his job, the petition stated. According to the document, Newman even acted as assistant director of K-Kountry during the summer of 2003. According to documents, Newman sexually assaulted the child several more times at several different locations throughout the next 12-18 months, according to documents.
Psychological testing of the child indicates that he suffers from severe depression and ongoing anxiety as a result of the abuse imposed on him by the defendants, the petition stated. As a result of the abuse, he also suffers from confusion about his gender identity because his first sexual encounter was with another male, according to the document. Significant concerns exist regarding the boy.’s potential to commit suicide.
Because Kanakuk, White and Cooper placed Newman in a position of absolute trust, he was allowed solitary access to impressionable young boys, according to documents. He had virtually unrestricted access to campers needing discipline or counseling and then used his position to groom them for his own sexual gratification, the petition stated. Using his position as a camp counselor and marketer, Newman accumulated victims, including the plaintiff, in the areas in which he traveled between camp seasons, the petition states. Newman then used the camp season to single out victims, rewarding them with discretionary favors permitted by Kanakuk, according to the document.
Despite its knowledge that it was employing a person who had participated in inappropriate sexual activities with minor boys, Kanakuk touted K-Kountry as the “happiest place on earth” and continued to allow Newman to have unsupervised access and contact with minor boys., according to the document. The charges cited in the amended petition include negligent supervision of a minor, negligent or wanton hiring, supervision and retention, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraud and breach of duty in loco parentis, or in place of a parent.
In response, Kanakuk filed their own motion in opposition to the amended petition.
The motion in opposition cites applicable law, reading that, in Missouri, merely holding a corporate office does not subject one to personal liability for the misdeeds of the corporation.
The document also reads that in order to make an officer of a corporation liable to a third person, something more must be shown than a mere act of nonfeasance on the part of the officer.
According to the statement, nothing short of active participation in a positively wrongful act causing intended injury to the prejudice of the complaining party, will give rise to individual liability. To hold a corporate officer liable, he must have had actual, constructive knowledge of the actionable wrong and participated therein, the document states.
Kanakuk’s opposition statement also states that the plaintiff alleges Kanakuk and those two officers, White and Cooper, failed to safeguard him, however, there is nothing in these allegations that should subject White or Cooper to personal, individual liability. The attempt to add these two corporate officers as additional defendants is not justified under the applicable law and would constitute needless duplication with respect to the plaintiff’s allegations.
No date had been set for the civil trial as of press time.