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Home arrow Lawsuit Related arrow Wapakoneta Daily News - The Way target of lawsuit
Wapakoneta Daily News - The Way target of lawsuit Print E-mail
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 International.

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 damages.

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 relationship.

"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 made."

But Martindale refutes claims contained in the suit that he said "grossly mischaracterizes the relationship I had with Mrs. Allen, which was mutually consensual."

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 gratification."

Another count claims The Way defrauded the Allens "of money and other things of value, assaulted, tortured and defamed" as a result of a conspiracy.

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.