After more than two years of legal wrangling, claims in Napa County Superior Court that the Jehovah’s Witnesses church failed to stop incidents of child sex abuse here are inching toward trial.
According to an Aug. 14 court order signed by Napa County Superior Court Judge Raymond Guadagni, lawyers shepherding several cases against the church, involving plaintiffs from multiple counties, are finally on the cusp of setting a 2007 trial date. Previous court hearings had been marked by disagreement over legal procedures and decisions by several out-of-county plaintiffs to drop their lawsuits against the church.
In the two Napa cases, people identified only as Charissa W., Nicole D. and Tabitha H. have filed suit against the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — the administrative organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — claiming church policy did not protect them from being sexually abused as minors. They claim to have been abused by Edward Bedoya Villegas, a convicted child molester who is now deceased but at one time was affiliated with the church.
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