New sex abuse allegations raised against former Hanna Boys Center director
Two past residents of the Hanna Boys Center have come forward to accuse former longtime Executive Director John S. Crews of repeatedly abusing them during their stays at the Sonoma Valley facility up to three decades ago.
A press conference Wednesday publicizing their complaints marked the first time Crews, a Catholic priest now living on the East Coast, has been accused publicly of criminal behavior while at the helm of the center for troubled boys. He worked there for 29 years and was relieved of his duties in 2013 after sexual misconduct allegations emerged against him from a former parishioner at St. Sebastian’s Church in Sebastopol.
David Anthony Ortega, 33, a Seattle resident, said he was molested “on several occasions” at Crews’ house and in his van from 1999 to 2001.
In a letter released at the news conference, Ortega said he experienced “acts of abuse that were not only sexual but highly degrading, shameful and nothing that any little boy should have to ever had to live through.”
The consequences impacted his life for the next two decades, he said in an interview.
Joseph George, a Sacramento attorney representing Ortega and a second man who remained anonymous, said Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa had falsely reported in January - when he released the names of 39 priests and deacons who committed or were credibly accused of child sex abuse crimes - that Crews had not abused children at the center.
Vasa named Crews in his report, but it included no accusations “directly associated with Hanna Center” since the agency has its own personnel policies.
Seeking Crews’ ouster
George and David Clohessy of St. Louis, former executive director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on Vasa to correct his claim.
The two men held an impromptu press conference beside St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma to publicize the new abuse allegations.
Vasa informed members of his sprawling diocese in February that a new accusation had been raised against Crews during his tenure at the 74-year-old Catholic boys center, a well-known nonprofit that has come under fire in recent years for deficient training and oversight and recently saw its former clinical director sent to prison for molesting three clients. The facility came close to having its license revoked last year and is now on probation.
In an update to the list of 39 accused priests released in January, Vasa noted in a column in the North Coast Catholic newsletter a new allegation raised against Crews was later reported to him by Hanna Boys Center. It was not clear Wednesday if it included either of the men represented at the press conference.
Vasa said he has subsequently been informed of at least two more additional accusers and said he planned to confront Crews, now a resident of North Carolina, and ask him to voluntarily seek a dismissal from the clergy.
Absent that, Vasa said he was prepared to write up a case for a canonical trial, after which the Vatican would determine if the case had been made for Crews’ dismissal, though he is no longer in the active ministry and has not been for six years, Vasa said.
“Ideally, if the priest admits that it happens, it makes it a lot easier,” the bishop said.
George represents the two new accusers, one using the pseudonym John Doe, who came forward when Crews was first publicly accused five years ago, days after the person he was accused of molesting died. The other, Ortega, came forward in response to a November appeal by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking victims of clergy sexual abuse to make reports to his office.
At the press conference, George said two men, born 15 years apart, have both filed reports with Becerra’s office. John Doe, born in 1968, was allegedly abused as a teenager between 1984 and 1985.
In a telephone interview, Ortega said he spent 20 years following his time at the Hanna Center “trying to prove to myself that I was a man,” including involvement in gang activity.
He said he contacted George last year after his girlfriend encouraged him to speak about his past for the first time. Ortega, a hip hop artist and comedian, said it remains an embarrassment to reveal his abuse.
“No one wants to be that person,” he said. “That’s why the other guy is John Doe.”
But he also encouraged other victims to speak up.
“There’s no shame in being a victim. The shame is not speaking up and allowing abuse to continue.”
Ortega said he was not aware of sex abuse involving any other Hanna Center residents.
Hanna Boys Center officials declined a request for an interview Wednesday.