The lawsuits over sexual molestation by Jehovah's Witness elders in San Diego are officially over.
On February 18, former parishioner Osbaldo Padron, one of several children molested by former church elder Gonzalo Campos, agreed to a settlement.
The agreement comes a month after another of Campos’s victims, José Lopez, settled his lawsuit against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses.
As reported by the Reader, Campos became a Jehovah's Witness in 1979, shortly after arriving in San Diego from Mexico. Not long after, Campos was put on a track to become an elder. He was promoted to a "publisher," a person who visits homes in hopes of spreading the religious doctrine.
In 1982, Campos and his mother were staying at a fellow member's home. Campos was sharing a room with a young boy. That night the boy allegedly woke up to find Campos pulling down his pajamas. He then felt Campos kiss his buttocks. The boy grabbed a bat and then woke up the household. Campos and his mom were told to leave.
Despite the incident, Campos remained serving as a publisher for the Linda Vista congregation. Elders continued to allow him to work with children and lead Bible-study classes. Campos allegedly began to groom those children.
According to lawsuits and testimony provided by Campos’s alleged victims, he would take them to work at his landscaping job and pay them to help. After work he would encourage the kids to shower and then on several occasions sodomize them. He would then buy them gifts and take them to fast-food restaurants in order to keep them happy.
In 1993, parents discovered what had happened. They complained to elders at the Linda Vista congregation. The elders, however, failed to act for three years. During that time the abuse continued.
In 1995, Campos was expelled from the congregation. It wasn't long before Campos was allowed back in the church.
In December 1999 then-elder Eduardo Chaves wrote to the Watchtower headquarters about wanting to allow Campos back in the church.
“In our meeting with him he said he was very repentant for what he did,” Chavez wrote in a letter. “He stated that he wanted to return to Jehovah. He is willing to face the victims and ask their forgiveness...
"Ever since his expulsion he has not abused anyone. He has read articles of the publications regarding his sin. He says he does not see or read pornographic information. He stated that ever since expulsion he has worked on having a relationship with Jehovah and the expulsion has served to strengthen him spiritually. He does not miss meetings, and he even takes notes of the program. He also said that he is willing to continue accepting Jehovah’s discipline."
Campos remained in the church until 2009. It was that year that five of his victims, then adults, filed a lawsuit against the Watchtower and the Linda Vista congregation. Campos fled to Mexico, where he has remained ever since. That case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2012.
Later that year, another victim, José Lopez, filed a lawsuit. Months later, Osbaldo Padron filed his.
The Watchtower has done its best to fight turning over documents that would show the scope of sexual abuse by elders. The final blow came last year when an appellate court affirmed a lower court's decision to fine the Watchtower $4000 a day for not turning over documents to the victim's lawyers.
In January, Watchtower settled with Lopez. One month later, on February 18, the church settled with Campos’s final victim Padron.
Attorney Irwin Zalkin confirmed the settlement. The amount, however, will remain confidential.