Wapakoneta Daily News 04/08/2000
The Way target of lawsuit
By WILLIAM LANEY
An alleged sex and abuse scandal is rocking the foundation of The Way
Two former employees of The Way International have filed a six-count civil
lawsuit in Shelby County Common
Pleas Court against the New Knoxville-based
religious organization. The suit seeks $2 million and additional punitive
The lawsuit has resulted in the Rev. L. Craig Martindale, president of The Way,
to take a leave of absence from his teaching responsibilities.
Attorneys James Bruns and
Lawrence Levy filed the suit on behalf of The Allens claiming breach of
contract, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud in a
fiduciary capacity, defamation of character and civil conspiracy.
The suit also alleges The Way and its leadership engaged in a "pattern of
corrupt activity" as defined by the Ohio Revised Code "including, but
not limiting to acts of theft, fraud, coercion, assault and rape."
The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial. The suit does not list an address
for the Allens, but does list Bruns having an office in Cleveland
and Levy having an office in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
The suit names Martindale, trustees Rosalie R. Rivenbark and John Reynolds,
along with Donald E. Wierwille, Howard Allen, Ramona Bidon and up to 50 unnamed
members of the "Way Leadership" as defendants in the suit.
The Allens allege the illegal activities occurred during and after their
involvement with The Way, located at 5555
Wierwille Road, New Knoxville. The Allens were
agents or employees of The Way between 1978 and 1981.
A press release from The Way attorney Rico Magnelli contends the lawsuit
"is part of an organized campaign to destroy The Way International."
After learning a month ago that a possible lawsuit could be filed, The Way
retained the Cleveland
law firm of Baker and Hostetler to investigate claims made by the Allens.
The suit claims Martindale "willfully and with malice" began a
campaign to coerce Mrs. Allen into engaging in sexual activity with him. The
suit also contends that Martindale, Bidon and others "eventually succeeded
in sexually victimizing" Mrs. Allen between 1996 and March 1999.
Allen claims she was "incapable of consenting to such sexual
activities" because of the "extreme and tortuous methods used to
control adherents to The Way."
The suit alleges fraud, coercive persuasion, sleep deprivation and other forms
of physical and psychological abuse.
Magnelli, in his press release issued Friday, said Martindale does not deny
having sexual relations with Mrs. Allen, but refutes the nature of the
"Mrs. Allen and I had an affair that ended at least two years ago. When
confronted about this approximately one year ago, I immediately admitted it to
my wife and to the Board of Trustees, with full apologies and remorse,"
Martindale said in the prepared statement. "I also apologized to Mr. Allen
and offered whatever help I could to heal the mistakes that had been
But Martindale refutes claims contained in the suit that he said "grossly
mischaracterizes the relationship I had with Mrs. Allen, which was mutually
The lawsuit also claims The Way "misused their fiduciary
relationship" with the Allens to subject the couple to "humiliation
for their (The Way leadership's) own personal amusement and
Another count claims The Way defrauded the Allens "of money and other
things of value, assaulted, tortured and defamed" as a result of a
The plaintiffs also allege that on March 24, 1999, a clergyman informed Mr.
Allen the couple had been designated as "Mark and Avoid" by The Way
leadership. According to the court document, a follower labeled "mark and
avoid" is "debased, denigrated, accused of being lower than low,
untrustworthy, dishonest, dangerous to himself and others, disparaged and
associations with other followers terminate."
Magnelli said there is "no basis for the claims that have been made in the
lawsuit." The Way International simply does not function in the way that
the Allen's have asserted, he said.
"We will aggressively defend these claims, and will vigorously pursue all
legal remedies that we have," Magnelli said.
The Way will have no further comment on the suit until it is concluded.