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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Morning Star suit awaiting ruling

A lawsuit against Morning Star Boys’ Ranch by a former resident who claims to have been abused there has been stayed by the state Court of Appeals while that court hears a motion to review a ruling limiting testimony in the trial.

Attorneys for George H. Minehart II, a former resident of the ranch, appealed Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor’s decision to limit the testimony of other former residents, most of whom have filed their own cases against Morning Star.

O’Connor would allow only the testimony of those witnesses who had reported abuse at the time of the alleged incident because such testimony might support allegations that ranch administrators knew or should have known of sexual abuse at the Spokane home for troubled boys and did nothing to stop it.

Lawsuits by 19 former residents – many of whom name the ranch’s former director, the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, as their abuser – have been separated into individual trials. In February, a unanimous jury found against the first plaintiff, Kenneth Putnam.

The Minehart case was scheduled to begin this past Monday, and delayed a week pending appeal. Now it will be delayed indefinitely until the higher court rules on the motion. If a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court decides to review O’Connor’s ruling, it could have a significant impact on all the remaining cases.