An Orange County Superior Court jury has awarded $2 million in damages to the granddaughter of the late televangelist Jan Crouch, who was found to have caused her then-13-year-old granddaughter emotional pain and suffering after she told her grandmother of having been sexually assaulted by a 30-year-old church employee.
Carra Crouch, who is now 24, had sought $6 million.
According to her lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2012 against Trinity Christian Center, the nonprofit that runs the Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) that Jan Crouch and her late husband Paul Crouch founded, Carra attended a Praise-A-Thon fundraiser in Atlanta with her grandmother in 2006. Here is how my former colleague Josh Dulaney explained what happened next, at least according to the complaint.
During the telethon one night, Smith visited Carra Crouch in her hotel room to discuss the telethon and other company matters, then ordered a bottle of wine, according to the lawsuit, which also says Trinity makes it a practice to supply alcohol to employees during business meetings.
According to the lawsuit, Smith coerced her into drinking the wine, which made her intoxicated. She says in the lawsuit that she asked Smith to leave the room, and that he offered her a glass of water to help her feel better. When she drank it, she immediately passed out, according to the lawsuit.
She believes the water contained a date rape drug which caused her to pass out. When she awoke the next morning, she says Smith was laying next to her, and there was blood on her bed sheets. She also claims to have had "severe pain and soreness in her body in places which indicated she had been molested and raped."
Carra Crouch then locked herself in the bathroom and screamed at Smith to leave her room, which he eventually did, the lawsuit says. Later that day, she flew home to California, according to the lawsuit.
Distraught over the incident, Carra Crouch was advised by her mother to inform Jan Crouch and Trinity attorney John Casoria, who also is an ordained minister and a nephew of Paul and Jan.
A meeting took place at the Crouch family mansion in Newport Beach, where, according to the lawsuit, Jan "became furious and began screaming at Ms. Crouch," and began telling her "it is your fault."
Carra Crouch alleges that after the screaming fit thrown by Jan, she approached Casoria, who allegedly became agitated with the 13-year-old, said he didn't believe her, and suggested that she was already sexually active "so it did not really matter," and she "may have propositioned him."
Still, Carra Crouch says Paul, Jan and Casoria actually did believe her accusations, and fired Smith the next working day. She also believes her grandparents and Casoria hid their belief in her accusations so they could "cover up" the incident and make sure it was never reported to the police or to the media.
The lawsuit states that ordained ministers by law are supposed to report sexual assaults under California law, but the jurors in Santa Ana rejected any notion that Jan Crouch, who died in May 2016 and now rests at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, failed in her duties as a minister, something Trinity Christian Center officials have spun as a partial victory, saying it shows the nonprofit was not at fault.
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However, after deliberating for eight hours, the jury on Monday did find that Crouch had been reckless, assigning her 45 percent of the blame for the emotional pain and suffering her granddaughter endured. Carra Crouch's mother, who sat by her daughter's side during the trial, was assigned 35 percent of the blame, but as she was not a defendant she will not have to pay anything. The remaining 20 percent of the blame was attached to Smith, who also was not a defendant, was never charged with a crime and also will pay nothing.
The judgment came to $1 million for past emotional damage and $1 million for future pain and suffering. Trinity Christian Center must pony up $900,000 of that ... or will it? Trinity attorney Michael King says the nonprofit plans to appeal, according to the Orange County Register.
The Anaheim daily also caught up with a "relieved" Carra Crouch in the courtroom hallway.
“This (lawsuit) has been going on since I was 18, so that has consumed my entire adult life,” she reportedly said. “It’s exciting that they’re being held accountable for at least part of the blame.”