McMartin Parents Sue Preschools, State in Molestation Cases
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ As criminal proceedings against McMartin Pre-School child molestation defendants slowly grind on, parents of former students are seeking redress through the civil courts.
Preschool founder Virginia McMartin and her staff have been named as defendants in 74 civil lawsuits filed by parents, with more suits expected.
″I’m going to get ’em in the pocketbook,″ said one McMartin father. ″It may take years. But we all have very competent attorneys.″
The McMartin lawsuits are among other pending civil actions against four other Los Angeles County preschools closed by state authorities after child molestation allegations.
In addition to the criminal actions, parents are asking tens of millions of dollars in damages for alleged indignities from sex acts they believe were committed on their children.
Many of the accused teachers are near bankruptcy because of legal costs of their criminal defense.
″The key in the civil cases is really getting to the insurance policies,″ said Los Angeles attorney Mark Beck, a former assistant U.S. attorney who represents parents in 22 pending or anticipated lawsuits aimed at four preschools.
Lawsuits were filed against McMartin teachers almost from the time police began investigating the Manhatten Beach preschool in the fall of 1983.
A total of 208 criminal counts of child molestation and conspiracy are alleged against the seven McMartin defendants now facing a preliminary hearing to determine if a criminal trial will be held. The hearing has lasted nine months, cost the county $2.4 million, and is expected to go into 1986.
In addition to Mrs. McMartin, 77, defendants include her daughter Peggy McMartin Buckey, 58; grandson Raymond Buckey, 26; grandaughter Peggy Ann Buckey, 29; and teachers Babette Spitler, 37; Betty Raidor, 65, and Mary Ann Jackson, 57.
Another lawsuit target is the state office that licenses preschools. About $90 million in claims have been filed by parents against state licensing authorities, most of them regarding McMartin.
The other suits involve four preschools about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles that have been closed by the state amid sexual abuse allegations. These are the Manhattan Ranch Pre-school and Learning Game preschool, both in Manhattan Beach; the Children’s Path preschool in Hermosa Beach and the Peninsula Montessori preschool in Rolling Hills Estates.
Attorneys for the parents said their clients don’t expect quick settlements. Some parents want reimbursement for continuing therapy costs. Others want assurance the defendants will never practice day care again.
″Not one client has ever asked me, ’How much do you think this case is worth? How much insurance is involved? How are we going to split up the money?‴ said attorney Dan Dunbar of the Beverly Hills law offices of Melvin M. Belli Sr.
″They’re well aware of what’s in store for them and the children,″ said attorney Charles Mazursky, who has filed three suits against the Hermosa Beach school. ″I made that clear in the beginning, that they better be prepared for ... a long process.″