Christian Station Accused of Rape Cover-Up

Courthouse News Service/June 22, 2012

Santa Ana, California -- The granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch Sr. claims in court that she was drugged and raped by an employee of the Christian broadcaster, and that the Christian TV network hushed it up to avoid bad publicity.

Carra Crouch sued Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana Inc., in Orange County Superior Court, alleging sexual battery and four other charges. Defendant Trinity, which does business as Trinity Broadcasting Network, is the biggest Christian TV chain in the United States.

The corporation and Does 1-20 are the only named defendants in the complaint, though it identifies numerous Trinity officials, including Jan Crouch, vice president of Trinity Broadcasting, an ordained minister and Carra's grandmother; Jan's husband Paul Crouch Sr., president of Trinity Broadcasting and an ordained minister; Stephen L. Smith, who "was an employee of Trinity Broadcasting and was 30 years old at the time of the incident giving rise to this complaint"; and John Casoria, "an officer of Trinity Broadcasting, an attorney, an ordained minister, and second cousin of Plaintiff. John is the nephew of Paul and Jan," according to the complaint.

Carra Crouch claims says she was 13 when Stephen Smith drugged and raped her in a hotel room while she was attending a Trinity fundraiser and telethon in Atlanta, in April 2006.

Carra claims that when she reported the incident to her grandmother, Jan Crouch told her that it was her fault she had been raped.

The complaint states:

"During the telethon one evening, Smith approached plaintiff in the hotel and began talking to her about the telethon in general and how she thought everything was going. Smith coerced himself into plaintiff's hotel room in order to further discuss the telethon and other relevant Trinity Broadcasting business activity. ...

"Once in plaintiff's room, Smith ordered a bottle of wine from room service on Trinity Broadcasting's account. Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that Trinity Broadcasting makes a regular practice of providing alcohol to its employees during business meetings. Smith proceeded to coerce the plaintiff to drink the wine in an attempt to get her intoxicated and plaintiff, in fact, drank the wine under duress and became intoxicated.

"Plaintiff began asking Smith to leave her room and he responded by giving her a glass of water to 'help her feel better.' Plaintiff drank the glass of water and passed out immediately. Plaintiff believes the water contained a date rape drug which caused her to pass out.

"Ms. Crouch awoke the next morning with Smith laying next to her, blood on her bed sheets, and severe pain and soreness in her body in places which indicated she had been molested and raped.

"Ms. Crouch locked herself in the bathroom and screamed at Smith to leave her room, which he eventually did. Ms. Crouch boarded a flight later that day back to her home in CA."

The complaint continues:

"The Report of the Battery and Sexual Battery by Plaintiff

"Ms. Crouch was distraught over what happened, and upon the advice of her mother, decided to talk with Jan and John about what happened.

"Plaintiff had a meeting with Jan in Jan's TBN affiliate-owned mansion located in Newport Beach, CA where she told her everything that had happened. In response, Jan became furious and began screaming at Ms. Crouch, a thirteen-year-old girl, and began telling her 'it is your fault.' After being told by Jan Crouch that it was her fault she was raped, plaintiff approached John Casoria about the incident.

"John Casoria also became agitated at plaintiff and told her he did not believe what she was saying to be true. He elaborated by stating he further believed she was already sexually active 'so it did not really matter' and he 'believed she may have propositioned him.' Ms. Crouch, a thirteen-year-old girl, had not been sexually active and was absolutely devastated about what happened and about how John and Jan responded to her."

The complaint continues with a section subtitled: "The Subsequent Cover Up of the Battery and Sexual Battery by Defendant.

"Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that Paul, Jan, and John actually did believe her accusations despite what they told her and fired Smith the next working day. Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that Paul, Jan and John came up with a plan to lie to about their beliefs about what happened in order to intimidate Ms. Crouch so that they could 'cover up' the incident and make sure it was never reported to police authorities or to the media, which would have brought negative publicity to Trinity Broadcasting during their annual fund-raiser.

"Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that John fired Smith over the telephone in which he stated: (1) the termination is a decision passed down directly from the president's office (meaning that the decision came directly from Paul Crouch, Sr.); (2) the termination will be without cause even though Trinity Broadcasting has gathered enough evidence to terminate Smith with cause; (3) the evidence is most probably sufficient to bring criminal charges against Smith; (4) Trinity Broadcasting would not disclose the evidence to the police if Smith would not file an EEOC claim, file for unemployment, or file for workers compensation. Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that John may have used the threat of criminal prosecution to gain an advantage in a civil matter and may have violated Model Code of Professional Responsibility DR 7-105.

"Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that Paul, Jan and John were all 'ordained ministers' at the time of this incident and that they were mandated reporters under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act. Plaintiff is informed, believes, and based thereon alleges that neither Paul, Jan nor John made any report, as required, and in the alternative, deliberately covered up the incident to protect Trinity Broadcasting from negative publicity.

"Plaintiff was not permitted to talk to the police about the incident, and was not permitted to seek the counsel of any third parties or sex abuse counselors at the time."

Carra Crouch Crouch seeks damages for battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se and negligence.

She is represented by Michael Koper of Elmont, N.Y., who told Courthouse News that his client looked forward to presenting proof of the allegations at trial.

Colby May, a spokesperson for Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, told Courthouse News that it had not been served with the complaint but that it "vehemently" denied the claims.

"Trinity is stunned to learn of the allegations now being made by Ms. Carra Crouch, coming more than six years after her initial report," May wrote in an email. "Trinity has confirmed that Ms. Crouch's parents are similarly just now learning of her latest accusations, which are completely at odds with what she reported to her mother and Trinity in 2006, and are also materially different from other versions Ms. Crouch has provided to third parties. These multiple versions undermine her credibility, and make plain that Trinity has done nothing wrong.

"Unfortunately, such specious lawsuits have become commonplace in our society, and accordingly, Trinity will fully defend itself if it is ever served."

Trinity Broadcasting has been criticized in some quarters for preaching a "prosperity gospel," claiming that God will financially reward people who donate to the channel.

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