Attorneys: More victims likely in Kamehameha sex abuse case

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorneys for 34 people suing Kamehameha Schools for an employee's alleged sex abuse are running ads looking for witnesses to come forward.

They believe there are hundreds of victims yet to be heard from.

"We want people to come forward that all knew about it, were afraid back then to say anything and didn't want to be expelled from school," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Michael Green.

The victims were boys, ages 9 to 17 years old, when the school referred them to St. Francis Psychiatric Director Dr. Robert Browne during the 1970s and 80s. They claim he sexually assaulted them.

"(Dr. Browne) made them think it was part of the treatment," said Green.

Lawyers for the alleged victims say when the boys had discipline issues like truancy, poor grades or fighting, they were driven in a school van to the St. Francis Medical Center in Liliha for an appointment with Browne and that's where most the alleged abuse happened.

"When it came out in 1991, they destroyed all the records. Kamehameha Schools destroyed the treatment records," said Green.

That same year, Dr. Browne committed suicide after an alleged victim confronted him.

"Kamehameha Schools is deeply saddened by the profound hardship these men have endured. The school would never condone or tolerate any of the alleged violations described; we work as hard as we can to protect the safety of our children every day. By court order, we cannot comment further or respond to specifics relating to this case," said Kamehameha Schools in a statement.

"As a Franciscan organization, any allegation of sexual abuse of children breaks our hearts and deserves our serious attention. While these events took place more than 30 years ago and St. Francis first heard of this situation only in 2012, we are committed to working through the legal process to ensure that there can be peace and reconciliation to heal whatever may have happened in the past," said St. Francis Healthcare System in a statement.

Plaintiffs lawyers say several high level school administrators including respected former headmaster, Dr. Michael Chun, didn't take appropriate action.

"In 1991, one of the parents met with Michael Chun and told him Dr. Browne molested several of my sons, and I want to know as a Hawaiian that you are going to do something about this," said plaintiffs' attorney, Loretta Sheehan.

The case heads to trial next summer, but lawyers are still arguing over whether the cases will be heard individually or in groups.

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