Punitive damages in clergy abuse case denied
Man claims alleged molestation from former Ward AME pastor
A young man who said he was sexually molested by the former pastor of Ward AME Church cannot seek punitive damages until he submits a declaration under oath asserting he was abused, a judge ruled last Thursday.
The unidentified man, who is about 20 years old, claims ex-pastor Sylvester Laudermill Jr. began molesting him in October 2005, when he was 16, and continued doing so until January of that year.
The lawsuit alleges sexual battery of a minor, negligence, fraud, false imprisonment and civil rights violations. The alleged victim is seeking punitive damages against the 5th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Church Inc., and 5th District Presiding prelate John Richard Bryant and Norman Copeland Sr., presiding elder of Ward AME Church where Laudermill served.
Although Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul Gutman rejected the punitive damages claim, Gregory G. Brown, the man’s lawyer could refile the motion if he gets a declaration from his client.
Brown said after the hearing that he will again pursue the punitive damages claim, which requires permission from the court because it involves a religious entity.
The alleged victim says his family attended Ward AME Church for more than 25 years, and both he and his mother sang in the church choir.
His lawsuit claims Laudermill began spending time with him when he was 15, buying him expensive clothing and taking him to restaurants and the opera.
The young man claims that one of the earliest sexual encounters occurred in a Los Angeles-area hotel room paid for by Laudermill with a church credit card.
In January 2006, Laudermill allegedly molested the boy at his home after unexpectedly coming home from a church-related trip. Laudermill’s ex-wife, Pamela Powell-Laudermill, had invited the boy to be an overnight guest and told him her husband would not be home during his stay, according to the lawsuit.
The alleged victim filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in November 2006 against Laudermill and his wife, the 5th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Church Inc., 5th District Presiding Prelate John Richard Bryant and Norman Copeland Sr., presiding elder of Ward AME Church at 1177 W. 25th St., where Laudermill served.
Laudermill was transferred to Ward AME Church in 2004 even though he and members of a St. Louis church where he served for 10 years knew of the allegations against Laudermill in Missouri, the lawsuit states.
Laudermill resigned in May 2006 after the AME Church concluded he molested the plaintiff and another minor.