“An Olney church and its regional non-profit corporation are being sued for over $1 million by the mother of an alleged sexual abuse victim.
The civil suit seeks recovery of damages based on sexual assault and sexual exploitation allegations against the First Assembly of God Church of Olney and the North Texas District Council Assemblies of God West Region.
Despite the church and victim being in Young County, the case was filed on April 12 in the 89th District Court since the district council, which controls or supervises the Olney church, maintains its headquarters in Wichita County.
The allegations of [child sex abuse] stem from the church’s “Royal Rangers” youth program, which was “jointly supervised, controlled and locally operated” by the church and district council, the lawsuit states.
The victim participated in the Royal Rangers program when he was about 6 to 8 years old “at the behest of First AOG of Olney and its agent/youth minister, Ryan Anthony Winner,” the suit states.
In a federal criminal case, Winner was sentenced in January 2016 to serve 60 years in federal prison for the production of child pornography.
The Olney church and district council “authorized and empowered Winner to perform all the duties of Royal Ranger leaders… (and) a youth minister,” the suit claims.
In his roles, Winner was placed in a position of power and trust over the boys by his father, who was the lead minister at the Olney church.
The suit alleges the father named his son as youth minister “even though he knew or should have known that he was unfit psychologically for such a position because of his propensity to sexually abuse minors.”
“Winner’s authorized duties and activities as Ranger leader and youth minister led to and resulted in his sexually abusing and sexually exploiting (the victim) between approximately 2014 and 2015,” the suit states.
After gaining the family’s trust, Winner reportedly invited the victim over to “hang out” with him at his residence and his father’s residence.
“During these times, Winner variously photographed and/or videotaped the naked boy” and “forced him to participate in sexual contact with an unidentified adult male,” including on church premises, the suit claims.
The suit states the sexual exploitation was discovered by Operation Predator, a Department of Homeland Securities investigation. Winner pleaded guilty to the allegations.
The family alleges that the defendants “failed to perform adequate background checks on persons hired or in position of authority over youth” and didn’t implement “reasonable” policies and procedures to detect or prevent sexual abuse of children.
The suit claims the church and council failed to investigate reports of sexual misconduct made against Winner and instead “promoted him as a qualified, trained and supervised” youth leader.
Winner was also represented by the church as someone to be trusted by both parents and children because he was a “man of good moral character,” the suit states.
“These representations … were false and misleading and were known to be false and misleading at the time they were made, or were made with a reckless disregard as to whether they were true or false or of potential consequence,” the suit alleges.
The suit claims that, according to the Texas Penal Code, the Olney church and district council are criminally responsible for the conduct of its agents and employees “if it was authorized, performed or recklessly tolerated by a high managerial agent, such as Winner’s father.”
The mother of the victim alleges the defendants “not only tolerated it, they aided and abetted Winner in possibly acquiring more victims.”
The suit requests that the Olney church and district produce within 50 days of the suit the personnel and employment files for Winner, any reports or allegations of sexual misconduct against minors by Winner; and statements made by the mother or Winner family about the alleged incidents.
It also asked for any reports by the defendants to or received from any law enforcement agency or Child Protective Services concerning complaints of sexual misconduct by Winner.
In the civil suit, the mother is seeking monetary relief for medical expenses, including counseling services for the victim; physical pain and suffering; mental anguish; physical impairment; loss of earning capacity for the victim; punitive damages; and any other damages to which the family is entitled.
She is also asking for the costs of the suit and pre- and post-judgment interest be granted, as allowable by law.”