The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay a record $8 million settlement to a teenager who was sexually abused by the athletic director at her Catholic high school.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the case involved Juan Ivan Barajas, a health teacher and athletic director at the all-girls San Gabriel Mission High School in San Gabriel, Calif.
Court records say Barajas repeatedly abused a 15-year-old girl and eventually kidnapped her, taking her to Las Vegas in 2016 after his wife discovered evidence on his cellphone that he had been molesting the teen.
After five days on the run, the teacher's car was spotted by a police officer in Henderson, Nev. Authorities rescued the girl and arrested Barajas. He pleaded guilty to felony statutory sexual seduction and is imprisoned in Nevada.
Records show that before the 2016 incident, Barajas was the subject of repeated misconduct allegations involving other female students.
“It is astounding this abuse was allowed to occur given all the training and procedures the archdiocese claims it has put in place since the priest-abuse scandals of the early 2000s,” says David Ring, the girl’s attorney. “The warning signs here were crystal clear. The complaints about Barajas were unambiguous, and yet nothing was done.”
The award is the highest individual settlement by the archdiocese in a sex abuse case.The archdiocese has paid out more than $740 million in sexual abuse settlements over the last 15 years, but other individual payouts were less than what was awarded to the girl and her family.
The archdiocese says it recognizes the “serious harm done to the life of the victim.”
“We hope that the settlement will allow her to heal and move forward with her education and lifetime goals,” the organization said.
The victim, who is now 18, continues to suffer panic attacks and flashbacks, according to court records.
Barajas is serving the last few months of a prison sentence in Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center. He will serve a three-year sentence in California once he completes his sentence at Lovelock.