Children's Theater Company found negligent in sex abuse case

A jury has reached a verdict on abuse that happened at the theater in the 1980s.
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The Children's Theater Company

After more than three years in court, a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Children's Theater Company (CTC) and two of its former staffers has come to an end.

A jury in Hennepin County jury issued a verdict on Thursday, finding the beloved Minneapolis youth theater negligent in the abuse of several plaintiffs in the 1980s. 

The jury also awarded one plaintiff, Laura Stearns, $3.68 million, relating to the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Jason McLean, a former Twin Cities restaurateur (and previously the owner of Varsity Theater in Dinkytown) believed to be living in Mexico after fleeing the U.S. a couple of years ago. 

McLean, a former teacher at the CTC, was already on the hook for $2.51 million over sex abuse allegations, per a previous verdict in Hennepin County in 2017. 

At a press conference this week, Stearns acknowledged that that money "will likely never be seen," a situation she describes as "a hard pill to swallow."

Nonetheless, she also called the verdict a "huge success," as it begins to hold the CTC accountable for having "not only allowed, but nurtured an environment where children could be abused by multiple perpetrators."

However, as KSTP notes, CTC was not found liable for any of the monetary damages as it "did not directly cause the assault" of Stearns. McLean alone is responsible for that money. 

Another figure in CTC abuse allegations is the notorious John Clark Donahue, the theater's former artistic director who was charged in April 1984 with sexually abusing three male students ages 12-14. He has been named in prior lawsuits as well. 

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According to MPR, the theater itself issued a statement following the verdict, saying they "accept the jury's verdict and wish Ms. Stearns success in her efforts to collect the jury's award from her abuser."

As the station notes, theater officials did not defend McLean, and said they want justice for any victims of child sex abuse. 

The plaintiffs were represented by Jeff Anderson, who's known for the multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

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