Former ranch lawyer denies hearing about alleged payoff
A former attorney for Morning Star Boys’ Ranch rebutted the testimony of a witness who said the ranch’s former director paid him to keep quiet about alleged abuse in the late 1970s.
Matthew Daley testified Tuesday that he never discussed the alleged payoff with a potential witness he interviewed in 2005 while working for Keefe, King and Bowman, a now-defunct Spokane law firm that once represented the home for troubled boys.
Daley was called as a defense witness in the case of former Morning Star resident Kenneth Putnam, who says he was abused by ranch director the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner and counselor Doyle Gillum, now deceased, in the late 1980s.
Putnam’s is the first of 19 separate lawsuits filed in Spokane County Superior Court against the ranch.
Last week, witness Michael A. Clarke, a former Morning Star resident now serving time for first-degree theft at Airway Heights Corrections Center, testified that he was repeatedly sexually abused by Weitensteiner a decade before Putnam.
Clarke said that in December 2006, after the allegations came to light, Weitensteiner paid him $2,000 in hush money. When Weitensteiner and Daley later met with Clarke, he denied being abused or witnessing abuse.
At the end of the interview, Clarke testified, Daley asked him if anyone had promised him anything for his testimony.
“I said, ‘Other than the $2,000?’” At which point the attorney looked at Weitensteiner and Weitensteiner shook Clarke off, Clarke recounted. “And I said, ‘Nobody promised me anything.’”
On Tuesday, Daley denied the allegation in front of a jury as he did last week during an evidentiary hearing before Judge Kathleen O’Connor.
Under questioning by Morning Star attorney Jim King, a former partner in Keefe, King and Bowman Daley testified that he had no reason to ask Clarke about whether he was paid off.
If he had heard Clarke say that he was, Daley said, “I would have been shocked and I would have reported it.”
Under cross-examination by Putnam’s attorney, Tim Kosnoff, Daley acknowledged that he conducted dozens of interviews with potential Morning Star witnesses, in person or by phone, and that Weitensteiner was present only at Clarke’s.
Daley said this was because he felt uncomfortable interviewing someone with Clarke’s “violent” history about whether he had been sexually abused or had abused someone else.
He could not recall what happened to his handwritten notes from the interview.
Also Tuesday, defense attorneys called Peter Whipple, a former resident and employee of Morning Star Boys Ranch, who rebutted earlier testimony by William Knapton, a ranch resident from 1964 through 1968.
Knapton said he was abused by counselors who placed flowers in his and other boys’ rectums and photographed them while the boys were in quarantine because of a childhood illness.
Whipple said he, too, was in quarantine and such an incident never occurred.
Under cross-examination, Whipple acknowledged that he has remained friends with Weitensteiner, who has given him money for Whipple’s street ministry and for Christmas gifts the past two years.
Weitensteiner is expected to be called today as a defense witness.