Judge orders state DOE to pay $10M to sex abuse survivor after 10-year legal battle

The family says their healing process still has a long way to go.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 9:15 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 at 9:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A judge has ordered the state to pay $10 million to a former McKinley High School student who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by more than half a dozen male students.

It’s believed to be the largest amount awarded in Hawaii to a single sex assault survivor.

“I am so thankful for the justice that has been served,” said the victim’s mother Randi.

“I wanted to give up many, many times. I thank God for this day that I’m here that justice has been served.”

Randy’s daughter — now 28 — is mentally disabled. She went to McKinley High School between 2008 and 2011.

“Over a three-year period, this child, who had the cognitive ability of a five-year old, was repeatedly molested by other students,” said Eric Ferrer, one of the girl’s attorneys.

“And there was substantial knowledge on the part of multiple teachers and administrators who turned the other way and didn’t do the right thing.”

In a 51-page ruling, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Crabtree said McKinley’s staff was negligent for failing to protect the girl, failing to report the sex abuse allegations to Honolulu Police, and failing to report the alleged assaults to the girl’s mother.

“The state was in the best position to prevent the foreseeable from happening and the state had multiple opportunities to prevent what happened,” Crabtree wrote.

The Attorney General’s office said it’s conferring with the Department of Education on whether to appeal.

Lawyers who have sued the DOE said the state has a weak case given the thoroughness of the judge’s ruling.

“I’m certainly hopeful that the DOE doesn’t pursue this further because, frankly, this is the case that should have been settled 10 years ago,” said attorney Eric Seitz.

The judge’s ruling is based on evidence presented during a 66-day trial between March 2021 and September 2021. More than 30 witnesses testified during the trial.

According to the ruling, teachers first began hearing that the girl was having sex with other students in the fall of 2008.

That’s when classmates told the girl’s special education math teacher that she had performed oral sex on a boy named “Joey,” the ruling said.

“When Joey denied it, it seemed the end of any investigation,” the judge wrote. “There is no information of (the teacher) ever sharing this information with Randi or the school administration.”

Lawyers for the victim said “Joey” is now a registered sex offender. He was convicted on five counts of sex assault with another victim and served 18 months in prison, state records show.

Ruling also gave details about where the alleged sex assaults occurred on school grounds.

“Most of the events, except the rape by Felicion, were on campus, either in the bathrooms or behind the English Building,” the judge wrote.

Felicion is Felicion Charles, who allegedly took the girl to Ala Moana Beach Park in 2009 and sexually assaulted her in a park bathroom.

He is now serving 16 years to life in Colorado where he was convicted for breaking into a woman’s apartment and for sexually assaulting her at gunpoint.

During the trial, the state relied heavily on the testimony of a psychologist as their expert witness.

According to the judge, the expert claimed that the victim “seemed to enjoy sex, actively pursue sex and did not avoid sex and had no evidence of anxiety about sex.”

But the judge dismissed much of the expert’s testimony because she did not have board certification in treating children, rarely treated children and can’t prescribe medications or admit patients into a hospital.

“Based on (the doctor’s) complete lack of clinical experience... the court concludes that (her) opinions are not reliable,” the judge wrote.

Attorney Susan Dorsey, who also represents the victim, said she hope the ruling will force the DOE to do more to prevent sex assaults at its schools.

“I hope every teacher, administrator, every parent, everyone in the state finds out what happened in this case so that it never happens again.”