August 29, 2014

Elyria
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Judge unseals Open Door suit

ELYRIA — County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery has unsealed a lawsuit accusing the Church of the Open Door and the private school it runs of ignoring complaints of sexual abuse at the school.

Rothgery 

Rothgery took the rare step last month of sealing the file because of concerns that the victim’s name would be available to the public if it remained available.

The girl’s name was originally listed on the lawsuit and in court records, but Rothgery’s order unsealing the file also orders that she will be referred to as Jane Doe in any future filings to protect her identity.

Rothgery defended his decision to seal the file last month, saying that the only way to keep the girl’s identify confidential, as her attorneys had asked him to do, was to seal it.

But Thursday, the judge said he believes the steps he’s taken to keep her identity under wraps will be sufficient.
“That was the hope,” he said.

The girl had originally wanted her name listed on the lawsuit as a means of empowerment, but after it was filed, it proved to be harder to deal with than she thought it would be, said Michael Polito, her attorney.

The lawsuit names Superintendent Michael Bova and Travis Mulanax, the former teacher who served a six-month jail sentence after being convicted of sexual imposition and contributing to the unruliness of a minor in 2003, as defendants.

The church has asked to be dismissed as a defendant in the case.

Bova and the school are accused of ignoring Mulanax’s pursuit of the girl, one of his students while she attended the school from 2001 through 2003. Mulanax was fired in 2002, but the lawsuit alleges the girl had complained about his behavior for more than a year before anything was done.

Rothgery came under fire from The Chronicle and Kent State University professor and public records attorney Tim Smith for his decision to seal the file.

“I don’t know his reason for doing it, but I’m delighted as a public records supporter that he’s changed his mind,” Smith said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 653-6258 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.