Trinity Broadcasting Network‘s founder should have called police when her 13-year-old granddaughter told her she had been molested on a trip to Atlanta for a fundraiser, so the corporation should be on the hook for civil damages, an attorney argued Wednesday.
Trinity’s lawyer said the claims in the lawsuit have changed over the years and cannot be trusted.
Carra Crouch, who is now 24, is suing Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, the nonprofit organization that runs the evangelical Christian media empire based out of Costa Mesa.
After Crouch returned from the TBN “Praise-a-Thon” fundraiser in Atlanta in April 2006, she and her mother, Tawny, went to see the girl’s grandmother, Jan Crouch, about the incident, Carra Crouch’s attorney David Keesling said.
At that point, Jan Crouch, as an ordained minister, was legally obligated to call the police, but she didn’t, so Trinity was responsible for outrageous conduct that left Carra Crouch struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Keesling argued.
“Had Jan Crouch not failed her obligations under the law we wouldn’t be here today,” Keesling told jurors in the civil trial.
“You’re not here to solve a crime,” Keesling said, referring to disputes about what happened when Carra Crouch said she was molested by a 30-year-old employee of Trinity on the road trip.
“We have a very narrow role here,” Keesling said. “Did Jan Crouch fail to report what she could reasonably expect to be considered child abuse… Did she recklessly cause emotional distress to Carra Crouch?”
Keesling said issues Trinity’s attorneys have raised during testimony about the consistency of accounts of what happened in the hotel room were “distortions and distractions.”
Keesling said Trinity’s claims were “absurd” that the lawsuit amounted to “extortion.”
Keesling argued that the girl’s mother wasn’t obliged to call authorities because she was in a position where she wanted to “stop the pain and suffering.
“That’s why we need mandatory reporters,” Keesling said. “Parents think about stopping the pain, not opening the door to more.
“Jurors should not be overly concerned with Tawny Crouch’s shaky memory of what she wrote down soon after the alleged molestation took place.
“She has a good heart, but not necessarily a brilliant mind,” Keesling said of the girl’s mother, who married as a teen and lacked higher education.
Keesling accused Jan Crouch of being more concerned about bad publicity, so she didn’t go to the authorities.
“She knew enough to call the lawyer and to evaluate how it would be bad PR for Trinity,” Keesling said.
He rejected Trinity’s arguments that Jan Crouch, who has since died, did not have enough details to call police.
“She doesn’t have to know the details,” Keesling said. “She just has to have a reasonable suspicion.”
Trinity attorney Mike King said “there’s absolutely no evidence” that Jan Crouch was trying to avoid negative publicity by not alerting authorities.
Tawny Crouch appealed to Jan Crouch to fire the employee and make sure that her daughter was not associated with the termination, King said.
“They got what they wanted,” King said. “They thought in 2006 that was in the best interest of their child.”
King added, “He should have been fired and he was… But only three people knew what happened in that (hotel) room and you’ve heard from two of the three.”
Carra Crouch had been out on the hotel balcony smoking and drinking with the man before she went back into the room and passed out. She alleges in her lawsuit that she must have been drugged.
Carra Crouch claimed she tried to fend off the man and ended up sleeping on the floor, but when she woke up she felt she had been sexually assaulted, according to a statement she and her mother worked on after the incident, King said.
Carra Crouch claimed her grandmother yelled at her, which traumatized her, but King said, Jan Crouch just asked, “Why did you let that guy into your room?”
He added, “Is that such an outrageous question?”
King said Tawny Crouch’s account of what happened has shifted during depositions and in the trial. King also pointed to an expert who testified for Trinity that Carra Crouch couldn’t have suffered long-term psychological effects from the incident.
–City News Service