Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Monday, January 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 28° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

Boys ranch joins talks on abuse claims

Mediation delays court cases against Morning Star

A mediation effort designed to resolve ongoing legal problems faced by the Catholic Diocese of Spokane now includes the Morning Star Boys Ranch, according to court records.

It sets up the possibility that a far-reaching agreement would sew shut most if not all of the outstanding clergy sex abuse litigation that continues to plague the two Catholic ministries a decade after the scandal broke in Spokane.

The upcoming mediation will be led by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, of Oregon.

It is the first time Morning Star has agreed to discuss settling the cases.

Attorney Jim King, who represents the ranch and its former director, the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, signed onto the mediation effort, thus postponing the second of 19 child sex abuse lawsuits against the ranch, many of which accuse Weitensteiner, according to court records.

Although the ranch and the diocese are separate entities, the two have become entwined in similar litigation. Men who alleged they were abused at the ranch have been winning monetary awards from the diocese through a special bankruptcy settlement plan. The ranch was staffed by diocese clergy and counselors.

Those awards have left the cash-strapped diocese in danger of defaulting on its legal and financial obligations. The result could trigger foreclosures on parish property.

Meanwhile many of these same abuse victims are pressing ahead with separate civil lawsuits against the ranch and Weitensteiner in Spokane Superior Court. There’s one case in federal court.

A superior court jury ruled in favor of the ranch during the first Morning Star trial earlier this year. The decision buoyed the ranch’s long-held assertion that the allegations are bogus and that Weitensteiner has been falsely accused.

But with new Catholic Bishop Blase Cupich pushing for mediation as a possible answer to the problems, all the sides have agreed to talks.

Staff writer Kevin Graman contributed to this report.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com

You have been successfully subscribed!


Top stories in Spokane

News >  Spokane

Then and Now: Cohn Bros. Furniture

The name Cohn has been associated with the furniture business for more than 130 years. The extensive Russian Jewish clan, along with several other families, arrived in Oregon in the 1870s after a long trek by wagon and on foot from North Dakota. The Spokane store was founded by Harry, Hyman and Joseph Cohn in 1895.