The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $8 million to a teenager who was sexually abused by the athletic director at her Catholic high school who had continued to work despite prior allegations of misconduct.
A court finalized the settlement last month per a negligence lawsuit. The $8 million is the largest payment to a single individual in any of the Archdiocese sexual assault cases.
Juan Ivan Barajas, was the health teacher and athletic director at San Gabriel Mission High School in San Gabriel, CA. The victim was a female ninth-grader in the second semester of the 2015-16 school year and Juan was her coach when the inappropriate interaction began.
Juan gave the girl special attention beginning in February 2016 and began adult-oriented conversations with her, the suit alleges. The next month, he kissed her and his actions progressed to sex acts with the girl at various locations on campus, including his office during school hours.
Juan began having sex with the girl, then 15, in 2016 and eventually kidnapped her. Juan took her to Las Vegas after his wife discovered evidence of the abuse on his cellphone.
After five days on the run, Juan was arrested and the girl was rescued.
Juan, now 38, pleaded guilty to felony statutory sexual seduction and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Anonymous letters sent to school officials in 2015 contained allegations of misconduct by Juan. A coach even complained to the principal of the school after Juan was seen taking a young girl into his office alone several times.
The lawsuit alleges that the archdiocese failed to take action despite repeated complaints of misconduct by Juan involving other students at the all-girls school. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is emotionally scarred and suffers panic attacks and flashbacks.
The archdiocese said in a statement:
“The Archdiocese recognizes that there was serious harm done to the life of the victim-survivor. We hope that the settlement will allow her to heal and move forward with her education and lifetime goals. The Archdiocese apologizes for the impact that this caused in her life.”