Another sex abuse lawsuit filed against Hanna Boys Center, Santa Rosa Diocese
Another former resident of the Hanna Boys Center is suing the Catholic organization that houses troubled boys, claiming the organization failed to protect him from being sexually abused by a female counselor, the third civil lawsuit stemming from alleged sexual misconduct filed this year against the 72-year-old community institution.
A pattern of lax supervision created the opportunity for the sexual abuse to take place, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Sonoma County Superior Court by the former resident, who is now 18. Supervision was “virtually nonexistent” and the center failed to protect boys seeking treatment after already enduring abuse and neglect, according to his lawyer, Micha Liberty of Oakland.
“They exposed him to a sexual predator,” Liberty said. “They took an already challenged and troubled young man and allowed conduct to occur that has devastated him, which will require lifelong care. This experience changed the course of his life.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of disturbing complaints emerging over the past year against the treatment center founded in 1945 by the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
The most high-profile case involves the center’s former clinical director Kevin Thorpe, 39, of Rohnert Park, who is accused of sexually molesting at least two boys under his care. Thorpe remains in the Sonoma County Jail on $1.5 million bail and today is scheduled to enter a plea in response to 15 counts of sexual abuse.
Sonoma County sheriff’s officials have said they are looking into additional possible victims.
A third man, now 25, has come forward in a civil lawsuit filed in August claiming Thorpe began sexually molesting him at age 14, abuse that continued until he graduated about four years later. His allegations are known to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, but Thorpe has not been charged in connection with them, according to his lawyer, Dan Beck.
The most recent civil case does not involve Thorpe, but a staff counselor named Angelica Malinski. Malinski has been charged with misdemeanor statutory rape in connection with the allegations raised in lawsuit filed Tuesday against the center, seeking unspecified damages. A call to her lawyer wasn’t immediately returned.
Brian Farragher, Hanna Boys Center’s executive director since 2014, was out of town and could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Calls for other center staff were not returned.
In the fall of 2016, the suit says Malinski engaged in “traditional predatory ‘grooming’ behavior, which ultimately led to numerous sexual encounters,” between the 17-year-old boy and Malinski, who was 22 at the time. Authorities suspect she had unlawful sexual intercourse with the teen at least three times in her room at the center’s Arnold Drive campus.
The teen enrolled at the Hanna Boys Center and its school, Archbishop Hanna High School, in June 2016. His parents had sought help for their son, who had demonstrated impulsive and reactive behaviors, according to the lawsuit.
By October, staff suspected Malinski may have been engaged in inappropriate behavior, including the night of Oct. 11 when the teen was missing from his bedroom and later found in Malinski’s room “just talking,” according to the documents.
On Oct. 24, a night watchman was posted to keep an eye on Malinski because “he was told there were concerns and he was told to watch out for anything inappropriate,” court files say. The watchman found the teen in an infirmary room instead of his assigned bedroom. The guard checked with a counselor, who gave the teen permission to stay there for the night.
The watchman hid nearby, saw the teen leave the infirmary and return with Malinski. Rather than intervene, the watchman called other staff members, according to court documents. The watchman said there appeared to be someone under the blankets with the teen.
Other staff members eventually came to the scene, and it’s unclear in the documents why Malinski wasn’t discovered until about 30 minutes later when she exited the room.
At that point, staff contacted the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to report suspicions about Malinski.
In February, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office issued a misdemeanor warrant for her arrest. Malinski turned herself in to clear the warrant in June, and is scheduled to return to court Thursday.
Liberty, the teen’s lawyer, said the focus of the lawsuit is the center’s failure to meet its responsibility for the care and treatment of a troubled youth.
“They knew there was an inappropriate relationship,” Liberty said. “A security guard watched an adult supervisor sneak into a room with the same young man and did nothing.”
The lawsuit draws connections to the other criminal and civil cases against the center and alleges a pattern within the organization of a failure to protect youth.
“It is alleged that Thorpe purposely encouraged lax supervision so that he could create an environment where he could successfully sexually abuse minor boys without getting caught,” according to the lawsuit.
The center also is the subject of a $2.7 million whistleblower lawsuit lodged by Thorpe’s predecessor who claims he was fired after complaining about a lack of supervision putting both youth and staff at risk.
In another civil case filed in July, a former student who claims he was abused by Thorpe said the abuse was witnessed by a staff member who allegedly interrupted an instance of sexual assault.
The court files also mention a finding by the Department of Social Services that some youth at the Hanna Boys Center were “beyond the facility’s level of care and that staff were not prepared for the ensuing problems.”
The Hanna Boys Center is church-based, but the diocese has no control over its operations. Bishop Robert Vasa sits on the Hanna Boys Center’s board of directors.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or email@example.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.