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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Child Abuse Complaint Falls Short

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A man who claims he was sexually abused, whipped and force fed by Jehovah's Witnesses as a child must show why his claims are not time-barred, a federal judge ruled.

Cosme Presas, a state prisoner representing himself, claims that he was abused from 1994 through 1998 by congregation members and leaders of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Oberto dismissed Presas' complaint without prejudice, and with leave to amend, finding that he failed to establish complete diversity of citizenship between the parties.

Presas, a California citizen, did not make clear in his pleadings whether the named defendants are all citizens of foreign states so as to invoke diversity jurisdiction.

In addition, Presas' tort claims arise from alleged abuse occurring nearly two decades ago and therefore far exceed their applicable statute of limitations.

Although in California, the statute of limitations for such claims do not begin to run until a minor reaches the age of 18, Presas did not identify his age in his complaint.

However, "simple math indicates that unless he were born in the year 1994, the period for bringing these claims has already expired under the tolling provisions for minority," Oberto wrote.

California law allows for civil claims for damages based on childhood sexual abuse to be brought within eight years of the victim's 18th birthday. However, once again, Presas' age is unclear, so Oberto could not determine whether his claims arising from his alleged childhood sexual abuse are time-barred.

Oberto gave Presas 45 days to amend his complaint, or he will dismiss it for failure to state a cognizable claim.

Presas "alleges that he was coerced into performing sexual acts by adult congregation members, for which he was incapable of consenting as a child. He alleges that the congregation members gained his compliance by threatening that God would 'destroy' him if he 'attempt[ed] to bring down [his] own,'" according to Oberto's recap of the lawsuit.

Presas claims reported the abuse, but the New York office either ignored his letters and calls or told him to "say nothing," according to the complaint.

The New York office told him "not to lie" and the elders of the church refused to acknowledge or end the abuse he was suffering, according to Presas. He claims they also tried to discredit him so no one would believe him.

He says he was "disfellowshipped" for reporting the abuse and his mother was threatened by his abuser. And he claims he was physically punished through lashings and forced feeding.

He seeks civil damages for defamation, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, willful harming or injuring of a child, and unlawful corporal punishment.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York is the corporate arm of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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