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Trinity Broadcasting must pay full $2-million verdict in molestation scandal, judge rules

Trinity Broadcasting must pay full $2-million verdict in molestation scandal, judge rules
Jan and Paul Crouch, co-founders of the world's largest Christian broadcasting network. (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)

An Orange County judge has ruled that Trinity Broadcasting, a dominant broadcaster of Christian-oriented programming, must pay the full $2-million verdict to its founding televangelists' granddaughter.

A jury had decided June 5 that Trinity founder Jan Crouch had caused outrageous harm to her then-teenage granddaughter, Carra Crouch, after she told her grandmother she had been sexually assaulted by a Trinity employee.

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But the jury had decided that others were also at fault, such as the girl's mother and the assailant, so it divided up each's liability. Jurors said Trinity Broadcasting had to pay only 45% of the total verdict, or $900,000.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson wiped away the division of damages and ruled that Trinity's parent organization, Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, had to pay the entire sum plus interest.

The decision is a setback for Trinity, which has gained millions of viewers around the world — and assets of about $750 million — by touting an uplifting message of faith and prosperity.

Trinity attorney Michael King did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday, but he previously said the television network was "inclined to appeal" the outcome.

Carra Crouch, now 24, said in her lawsuit that in 2006, she was attending a fundraising telethon for Trinity in Georgia when a 30-year-old employee "coerced himself" into her hotel room and ordered wine from room service.

At the time, she was 13. The man pressured her to drink and then offered a glass of water, which she contends was laced with a sedative, according to the suit.

When she awoke the next morning, she said, blood was on the sheets and her body was sore, "which indicated she had been molested and raped," according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after, she went to her grandmother's Newport Beach estate and told her what had happened. The elder Crouch became enraged and upbraided her granddaughter, according to court papers.

The grandmother said, "Why would you have that man in your room? Why would you let this happen?" Carra Crouch testified in a deposition.

The Trinity employee was soon fired but he was not arrested or charged with a crime.

Carra Crouch alleged her grandmother sought to avoid a firestorm of damaging headlines and covered up the matter.

The lawsuit said that under California's child protection laws, an ordained minister such as Jan Crouch was required to report the suspected sexual abuse to police.

King, the lawyer for Trinity, countered at trial that Jan Crouch was told about the incident in her capacity as a grandmother, not as a Trinity employee, so the "mandatory reporting" requirement did not apply.

Jurors agreed that Jan Crouch was acting as a grandmother but still faulted her for causing her granddaughter to suffer.

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Jan Crouch died in 2016. Her husband, Paul Crouch Sr., who co-founded the network, died in 2013.

Both disputed the lawsuit's allegations, and King has said the legal battle — one of many faced over the years when the Crouches led the network — was painful for them.

"You can imagine what a grandmother feels when her granddaughter sues her over something like this," King said.

He insisted Jan Crouch was not informed of the alleged sexual assault, and instead was told of spurned sexual advances made by the Trinity employee. "Her position was, if she knew something, she would have acted."

Twitter: @MattHjourno

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