Prominent Sex Abuse Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian Targeted in Philly-Based Lawsuit
An employee of a suburban boarding school claims that the famed attorney at the center of the Boston clergy abuse scandal ruined his reputation and demanded $1 million from the school over allegedly bogus claims.
Mitchell Garabedian is easily one of the world’s most well-known attorneys when it comes to suing men accused of sexual abuse.
Garabedian was the lawyer at the center of the notorious Boston clergy abuse scandal — Stanley Tucci played him in the Oscar-winning movie Spotlight — and reportedly obtained a large settlement on behalf of 86 people who claimed they had been abused by one particular Boston priest. He’s called the Catholic church a “corrupt criminal entity” and has said that Catholic priests have “been raping kids at a wholesale pace for centuries.”
When a woman came forward in 2017 with accusations that actor Kevin Spacey had sexually abused her underaged son, it was Garabedian who was sitting next to her at the press conference.
And the horrific Boy Scouts sexual abuse story that broke recently? Garabedian is representing more than 25 accusers, and he’s been all over the news for that.
But now Garabedian finds himself the target of a lawsuit filed by prominent Center City lawyer Jim Beasley on behalf of a Hill School employee who says that Garabedian ruined his reputation by asserting false sexual abuse claims made by a former student. That employee, whose identity is not revealed in the John Doe lawsuit, is currently on leave, says a Hill School spokesperson. Garabedian did not comment for this story.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia’s federal court, the employee in question has held a number of positions at the Hill School over the last 25 years, including coach, dorm parent, administrator and teacher. He “earned and maintained the highest esteem, respect and gratitude of his supervisors, colleagues, students and alumni,” reads the suit.
But that all changed in 2018.
In April of that year, Garabedian fired off a letter to the Hill School’s headmaster asserting that a former student, now 40 years old, had been sexually abused by the Hill School employee from 1993 to 1995, when the student was in his mid-teens. The letter claimed that the student had developed drug, alcohol and mental health issues as a result of the alleged molestation, and it went on to demand $1 million to make the matter go away.
The suit claims that Garabedian’s team did nothing to investigate or corroborate the accusations made by the student and that Garabedian sent the letter as an act of extortion, hoping that “the school would fear the mere filing of any lawsuit, despite its complete lack of merit.”
Then last December, Garabedian sent another letter to the Hill School, which included graphic details of what the student claims the employee did to him. (Neither letter explicitly threatened a lawsuit.)
But the employee insists that the allegations made against him are “completely false.”
Further, claims the suit, Garabedian issued his million-dollar demand even though he knew that the accusations were being made nearly a decade after Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil litigation had expired.
Plus, argues the John Doe plaintiff in the complaint, Garabedian didn’t even state a potentially valid legal claim against the school — as opposed to against the employee — in his letters, such as that the Hill School had failed to supervise its employee.
“The defendants never actually intended to file suit; a suit they knew to be unsustainable, meritless, and fatally deficient under the law,” reads the complaint. “Rather, the defendants’ improper purpose was to cause plaintiff maximum emotional harm — and his most respected school a potential PR nightmare — in hopes of leveraging, by false and extortionate demands, a quick payout and contingency fee.”
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses Garabedian and his firm of defamation and intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and accuses the former student of defamation.
In a statement, the Hill School, whose alums include Oliver Stone, James Michener, George Patton and, well, both Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., told Philly Mag that the school has tried repeatedly to get the student and Garabedian to provide details that would allow the school to properly investigate the accusations, but they have not done so.
“Nonetheless, the school took steps to limit the employee’s contact with students,” reads the statement. “The employee … has been placed on leave. We are not aware of any other allegations involving this employee. Up to this point, he has been an employee in good standing.”