Two men settle sex abuse suit with Seneca Valley

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Two men who say in a federal lawsuit that they were sexually abused as minors by a former Junior ROTC instructor at Seneca Valley Senior High School have reached a settlement with the school district.

But the rest of the civil claim will continue against Kevin B. Johnson as an individual, and a retrial in the related criminal case is pending an appeal to state Superior Court filed last week.

The men, identified in court papers as John Doe and Richard Roe, sued Mr. Johnson and the district earlier this year.

Mr. Doe, formerly of Cranberry but now living in Mississippi, said Mr. Johnson fondled or attempted to fondle him in his office at school in 2006, when he was 15.

Mr. Roe, also 15 at the time, said he and Mr. Johnson had sexual relations on school property and in his car up until Jan. 4, 2008, when his mother contacted police.

The men said the district was liable because officials didn't stop the abuse. In Mr. Doe's case, for example, he said he told a guidance counselor that Mr. Johnson abused him but said the counselor "failed to report the conduct or ask further questions."

The Post-Gazette does not identify the victims in sex cases.

Lawyers for the district and for the plaintiffs did not return messages Tuesday, but court filings indicate the parties settled all claims Friday. Terms were not released, but the amounts must become public after the school board votes to approve the settlement.

The rest of the civil case will proceed against Mr. Johnson, 51, of Portersville.

He is charged criminally with 70 counts of corruption of minors, stalking and indecent assault of minors. The first trial ended in a mistrial in August after Len Keller, the Jackson police chief, testified that he had raised the issue of a polygraph test during an interview of Mr. Johnson. Polygraph tests are inadmissible in court, and so is any mention of them.

A retrial was supposed to begin this month, but it's been delayed pending an appeal to the Superior Court by Mr. Johnson's lawyer, David Shrager, who says the case should be dismissed on double jeopardy grounds.

In addition to mentioning the polygraph, Chief Keller also told the jury that Mr. Johnson refused to talk to police. Mr. Shrager said in post-trial motions that both statements were improper and deliberate attempts to influence the jury.

He also accused the prosecutor, Mark Lope, of deliberately allowing the chief to make the statements and said the state should not get a second chance at his client.

Judge Timothy McCune rejected the motion, but last week Mr. Shrager filed an appeal raising the same issues.


Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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