February 8, 2010 in City

Accuser takes the stand again in Morning Star trial

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Attorneys defending Morning Star Boys’ Ranch rested their case on Monday after bringing the ranch’s accuser, Kenneth Putnam, to the stand in the civil trial’s last day of testimony.

Closing arguments are expected Tuesday in the first of 19 separate lawsuits filed in Spokane County Superior Court against the Spokane residential facility for troubled boys.

Putnam, 34, voiced indignation as Morning Star attorney Jim King asked him to read from numerous pages of transcripts of pre-trial interviews.

“You get me confused with all your questions, just like the depositions,” Putnam, who has attention deficit disorder, told King.

When King managed to focus Putnam’s attention on a particular paragraph, it often pointed out a discrepancy between the plaintiff’s versions of events that transpired more than 20 years ago.

Putnam accuses former Morning Star director the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner of molesting him when he was 13 or 14 years old on the priest’s boat, in his car and at his home at St. Patrick’s Parish in northeast Spokane.

Also, Putnam says counselor Doyle Gillum, now deceased, molested him in a boy’s bedroom at the ranch on two occasions.

On Monday, King pointed out divergent details in Putnam’s various accounts of events. Was he tied down or free when Gillum allegedly abused him? Did he report the abuse or not?

During trial testimony, Putnam said he slept in Weitensteiner’s home, but in an earlier account, Putnam said he spent the night on the priest’s boat.

“It says that, but that’s not what happened. I think you had the first part confused with the second part,” Putnam told King on Monday.

King read passages from ranch documents that noted Putnam “exchanging pleasantries” with Gillum after the abuse allegedly occurred.

“There was nothing pleasurable about that boys ranch,” Putnam said.

Why, King asked, did he not report the alleged abuse at the time to his caseworker, his attorney, the deputies who arrested him on two occasions while he was at the ranch, or his mother?

“That’s just something you don’t talk to, with somebody you don’t know,” Putnam said.

He said he tried to tell his mother but she “freaked out” and sent him back to Morning Star.

Putnam’s attorney, Tim Kosnoff, declined to cross-examine his client after King finished.

Later, out of the presence of the jury, Judge Kathleen O’Conner granted a defense motion to disallow the testimony of three additional rebuttal witnesses for the plaintiff.

Kosnoff tried to call the witnesses, two of whom are plaintiffs in separate abuse lawsuits against Morning Star, to counter Weitensteiner’s claim that he never saw anybody being abused at the boys ranch.

All three witnesses would have testified that Weitensteiner saw their abuses at the ranch because the priest was their abuser, Kosnoff said.

But O’Conner said she had already limited the admissibility of testimony in the trial to witnesses who had reported their alleged abuse at the time of the incident.

In a critical evidentiary hearing in January, the judge said such witnesses could support the plaintiff’s claim that the boys’ ranch knew or should have known of ongoing abuse and did nothing to stop it.

On Monday, she said she would not allow Weitensteiner’s testimony “to open the door to these other claimants.”

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