Seven former students at Pak’s Karate School in Kingsland, Georgia filed a civil lawsuit on August 20 against their former karate instructor, Craig Peeples, alleging years of sexual abuse. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit also goes after Pak’s Karate School, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and USA Taekwondo, which is part of the US Olympic Committee.
The seven men, who are now in their 30s, accuse Peeples of sexually assaulting them when they were teenagers (varying in age from 12 to 16), from 1989 to 2000. Owing to Georgia’s statue of limitations, the men were unable to pursue criminal charges against Peeples.
The plaintiffs’ civil lawsuit was brought under the recently passed Georgia Hidden Predator Act. This bill was passed this year and signed into law by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in May. A 2014 report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) found evidence that Peeples committed “multiple acts of sodomy, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, and sexual battery,” according to a March 6, 2014 letter by Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney (DA) Jackie Johnson.
The GBI report, as well as sustained pressure from the seven men and their attorney, Marci Hamilton – a leading national expert in child sexual abuse cases, was instrumental in the passage of the Hidden Predator Act.
The seven alleged victims were all top competitors in Taekwondo, winning state, national, and international titles, including Junior Olympic medals.
Justin Conway, one of the plaintiffs, says of Peeples, “[He] was who you went to if you wanted to be an Olympic level or Junior Olympic level athlete.”
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At such a high level of competition, the alleged victims spent a great deal of time with Peeples, travelling to tournaments across the country and even overseas. Much of the alleged abuse occurred at sleepovers at Peeple’s home, at Pak’s Karate, and during tournaments on the road. Often times the abuse would occur in group settings, “with as many as six or seven boys of similar age in the room at the same time,” according to a letter by DA Johnson.
The lawsuit says Peeples would manipulate the boys to keep them from telling others what was happening. As one of the plaintiffs, Christopher Brazell, explained, “Your idol, the guy that seems to have given you so much, is at the same time abusing you.”
Peeples continues to coach and enter tournaments with children, despite the allegations against him. Owing to his stature, the local community has been slow to shunning Peeples and barring him from coaching and from the school.
Peeples denies the allegations against him, and his attorney, Gary Baker, contends that the lawsuit is a conspiracy to destroy his client’s business.
The Pak’s Karate School sexual abuse case is one of a growing number of cases nationwide in which sexual abuse survivors are turning to civil lawsuits to recover compensation from their abusers and the organizations involved.
Cory Watson Attorneys commend the courage of these young men to speak out and use their experience to be the force that pushed the passage of the new law to help protect the rights of other abuse victims.
Cory Watson Attorneys has successfully recovered compensation for sex abuse victims across the U.S. For a confidential, free consultation, contact us today at (877) 686-8992.