Montana jury awards two women $35M in sex abuse lawsuit against Jehovah's Witnesses
A jury in northwestern Montana awarded two women $35 million Wednesday in their lawsuit against the local Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation and its worldwide headquarters.
The decision came down after a three-day trial. The Thompson Falls congregation and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the church’s institutional center in New York and Pennsylvania, will pay $4 million in compensation and $31 million in punitive damages to two women who sued the church in 2016.
The women said Max Reyes, a member of the Thompson Falls congregation, sexually assaulted, molested and raped them over a 13-year period in the 1990s and 2000s, both before he was severed from the congregation and after leadership reinstated him 14 months later.
Watchtower, the church’s worldwide center, is the headquarters for the religious leadership and the church's institutional operations, such as policy making and financing. Each congregation is legally connected to Watchtower as one entity.