Sexual Assaults at Diamond Ranch Academy
By Craig VernonJuly 26, 2017
CONTACT: Craig Vernon, attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org; (208) 667-0683 or cell (208) 691-2768 Wes Larsen, attorney, email@example.com; (208) 667-0683
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sexual Assaults at Diamond Ranch Academy A lawsuit filed today seeks to uncover why a Diamond Ranch Academy therapist repeatedly sexually assaulted teenage girls inside his office
WHAT: Press conference where teenage survivor of sexual assault, her mother and their attorneys will discuss the lawsuit against Diamond Ranch Academy. Laura Wilkin and her daughter Hannah, who reside in Arkansas, will discuss the sexual assaults, betrayal of trust and broken promises.
WHO: Laura Wilkin, her daughter, Hannah Wilkin, and Attorneys Craig Vernon and Wes Larsen (Utah State Bar No. 14572)
WHEN: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 11:00 am Mountain Time
WHERE: Courtyard by Marriott 185 S. 1470 East, St. George, Utah 84790
(July 25, 2017 – St. George, Utah) A lawsuit was filed this afternoon against Diamond Ranch Academy (“DRA”), a therapeutic boarding school and treatment center for troubled teenagers in Hurricane, Utah, by a victim of child sexual abuse and her parents, seeking answers to why these sexual assaults happened. Why was a DRA therapist allowed to cover the windows of his office while he sexually assaulted teenage girls? Was this allowed at DRA? If not, why didn’t anyone at DRA do something when they saw the windows covered during these so called “therapy sessions”? And why didn’t DRA report the abuse to the local authorities after the girls reported it to DRA management?
The lawsuit was filed by Laura and Timothy Wilkin, residents of Arkansas, on behalf of their minor daughter, Hannah. According to the lawsuit, the DRA therapist sexually groomed, molested and assaulted Hannah Wilkin starting in April of 2016 until May of 2016.
The DRA therapist, Troy Ammon Carter, used his position of power and authority to prey upon the young girl. According to the lawsuit, Carter disparaged Hannah’s relationship with her parents in order to win her trust; disclosed confidential information to Hannah about her parents; made inappropriate comments to Hannah regarding her apparel and physical appearance; asked Hannah for details about her sex life and the sexual activities she was interested in; disclosed details of his own sex life to Hannah; told Hannah about inappropriate dreams he had about her, and that he had a crush on her; and straddled Hannah from behind while she laid on a couch in his office, unhooked her bra, and massaged her back, upper buttocks, and upper pelvic area skin-on-skin. Carter also allegedly pretended to have a chiropractic license and performed chiropractic adjustments on the minor Hannah.
According to the lawsuit, Carter was terminated by DRA in May of 2016 for inappropriate physical contact with a different girl who was also his therapy patient, and Hannah Wilkin came forward about her own abuse shortly thereafter. The Wilkins’ lawsuit further alleges that prior to Carter’s abuse of these teenage girls, Carter signed a document at DRA’s request agreeing to not have physical contact with the teenagers in DRA’s care; furthermore, Carter had been reprimanded for inappropriate physical contact with several teenage boys in the school’s cafeteria.
Attorney Craig Vernon expressed frustration at what he termed DRA’s “turning a blind eye to the obvious warning signs” that Carter exhibited prior to abusing Hannah and the other unnamed girl. “DRA had already reprimanded Carter for inappropriately touching students, but did nothing to protect these vulnerable girls, who were isolated and far away from their families.”
Attorney Wes Larsen notes, “If DRA really cared about its students’ safety, it would have terminated Carter, put him on leave, or at least supervised him after the cafeteria incident. But for whatever reason, DRA chose to do nothing. DRA put other interests ahead of protecting the already-vulnerable kids within its care.”
Attorney Vernon comments that “not only did DRA not terminate Carter following inappropriate conduct, it allowed him to put paper over the windows of his office where he sexually assaulted Hannah and the other girl during these so-called counseling sessions. DRA literally allowed Carter to cover up the sexual assaults while they happened.”
According to Timothy Wilkin, “Our family was under significant stress when we enrolled Hannah at DRA. We, and our daughter, turned to DRA for help based on the services they offered, their location, facilities and the claims made in their professional marketing materials. DRA completely violated our trust and turned this into our worst nightmare.”
Hannah Wilkin expressed concern that other children had been or could be abused by Carter and predators like him who work at therapeutic boarding schools like DRA: “I just don’t want what happened to me to happen to other kids. We enroll at DRA to get help with the problems life throws at us, not to get molested by the counselor DRA assigns to us.”
About James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A.: James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A. is a nationally-recognized law firm of the nation’s leading lawyers in the field of child sex abuse. See www.jvwlaw.net for more information on attorneys Craig Vernon and Wes Larsen.
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Diamond Ranch Academy sexual assault case
- Joined: 11:12 PM - Jun 26, 2008
A passive management and an employee out of control. A recipe for disaster..
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- Joined: 11:12 PM - Jun 26, 2008
Salt Lake Tribune wrote: Diamond Ranch Academy is sued after a therapist is accused of sexually abusing teen student
By TIFFANY FRANDSEN, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 28 - 2017
An Arkansas couple on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in Utah against a Hurricane ranch for troubled teens, alleging that a therapist sexually assaulted their then-16-year-old daughter last year.
A therapist employed by Diamond Ranch Academy touched the teenager inappropriately, asked her for details about her sexual interests and told her about his sex life in April and May of 2016, according to the lawsuit filed in 5th District Court. The teenager enrolled in the academy and lived on the campus from March to October 2016, according to the suit.
Diamond Ranch declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Students are "assigned an individual therapist" to attend to their behavioral development, according to the school's website. The defendant was assigned to be her mental health counselor and therapist in April, less than two months after he received his license, the suit states. When hired, the therapist signed an agreement to not touch students.
In addition to the alleged inappropriate touching and conversation, the defendant disparaged the teen's relationship with her parents, described dreams he had about her, gave her massages and told her he had a crush on her, the lawsuit states.
Therapists at the academy are allowed to put paper over the windows in their offices for patient privacy, creating, the lawsuit alleges, "a perfect environment in which sexual grooming and sexual abuse could occur."
A different female student accused the therapist of "inappropriate physical contact" in May, and he was fired. After hearing about the abuse of her fellow student, the teenager told an academy staff member about her story of abuse, the suit says, but the employee didn't report it to law enforcement.
The lawsuit alleges that the teenager was told by a staff member to renege her story and tell law enforcement that she had lied about the abuse.
The teen remained at the school until October.
Communication with her parents was limited while the girl attended Diamond Ranch Academy, the lawsuit states. Students are allowed to talk to their family once a week, during a session supervised by a therapist. If a student has something negative to say about the academy, he or she would have to say it in the presence of a therapist, the lawsuit stated. Students can write letters and emails, but those are routed through the academy. In-person visits are awarded to students, but they are limited.
The parents request in the lawsuit that the academy post on its home page the names of anyone associated with the ranch — past or present — who is a known sexual abuser or offender. They asked for the academy to pay for two years' worth of mental health treatment for anyone sexually abused by an employee of the academy. The parents also want the academy to fund independent workshops that detail anything that allowed sexual assault at the academy, what has been done to prevent future abuse and ways to protect children from sexual predators.
The parents also have requested that a task force be formed to investigate and monitor the academy.
The Salt Lake Tribune is not releasing the name of the teenager because she is a minor. The Tribune is not naming the defendant because he has not been charged.
The Spectrum wrote: Sexual assault lawsuit filed against Diamond Ranch Academy
by Bree Burkitt, The Spectrum, July 28 - 2017
A former Diamond Ranch Academy student filed a lawsuit against the therapeutic boarding school alleging a therapist sexually groomed and assaulted the minor.
According to the 23-page lawsuit filed in the 5th District Court on July 25, Hannah Wilkin, who has chosen to identify herself in court documents, and her parents are suing Diamond Ranch Academy and former mental health therapist Troy Ammon Carter. The Arkansas resident is no longer attending the residential treatment center.
The lawsuit alleges the incidents occurred multiple times in April and May of 2016. The secluded treatment facility caters to “troubled teens,” according to their website.
According to court documents, the newly-licensed therapist intern assigned to provide counseling services to the 16-year-old victim used his “position of power and authority” to prey on Wilkin. Carter allegedly told the minor details about his sex life, questioned her about her own sexual history and made inappropriate comments about her physical appearance. Additionally, the complaint also states he straddled Wilkin and unhooked her bra while providing a back massage in his office without a chiropractic license.
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During a police interview, Wilkin told investigators Carter would attempt to disparage her parents in attempt to gain her trust and detail inappropriate dreams he had about the minor.
The windows of his counseling office were covered with brown butcher paper, Wilkin's attorney, Craig Vernon, said.
“He used the paper to cover up the windows to literally cover up the sexual assaults while they were happening,” Vernon told The Spectrum & Daily News. “It’s very curious to me that would go unnoticed.”
Carter was terminated in May 2016 for inappropriate physical contact with another student. Wilkin came forward shortly after.
Prior to the alleged incidents, DRA required Carter to sign a document pledging he would stop all physical contact with his patients, the complaint details. He had previously been reprimanded for inappropriate contact with multiple male students.
The lawsuit claims the treatment center provided the "perfect environment" for victims to be groomed and sexually abused due to inadequate supervision and internal policies. It also alleges her complaints about Carter were not properly forwarded to law enforcement.
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“DRA had already reprimanded Carter for inappropriately touching students, but did nothing to protect these vulnerable girls, who were isolated and far away from their families,” Vernon said.
Diamond Ranch Academy did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Vernon said two other victims have since come forward with similar allegations against Carter.
Following an investigation by the Hurricane Police Department, the Washington County Attorney’s Office ultimately declined to file any charges due to a lack of sufficient evidence. It is not known whether the three other alleged victims intend to file a criminal complaint at this time.
Wilkin opted to identify herself in the suit to show other victims they are not alone.
“I just don’t want what happened to me to happen to other kids,” she said. “We enroll at DRA to get help with the problems life throws at us, not to get molested by the counselor DRA assigns to us.”
Ultimately, Vernon said the Wilkin family are seeking the $6,000-$12,000 per month tuition in addition to compensation for the victim.
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“Money is symbolic of both Carter and the DRA accepting responsibility for what happened,” he explained.
Diamond Ranch Academy was also under scrutiny in 2015 when a teacher was arrested for possessing hundreds of images depicting child pornography on a personal cellphone and a computer at the school. Chad Huntsman and his wife, who also worked at DRA, were both terminated following the arrest. Huntsman was sentenced to 22.5 years in federal prison in February, while the charges against his wife were dismissed due to a lack of intent.
Follow reporter Bree Burkitt, @BreeBurkitt. Call her at 435-218-2241.
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