was an LDS church member and high school wrestling coach in Washington; convicted of sexual abuse in 1977

Case Summary

According to FLOODLIT’s sources:

  • O’Connor once publicly confessed some of his sexual abuse in a fast and testimony meeting at a Tacoma LDS young adults ward.
  • At the time of that public confession, O’Connor was being treated as a sex offender at Western State Mental Hospital.
  • Some time after his confession, O’Connor was allowed to become an active participant in a local Mormon singles ward.
  • O’Connor later married an LDS woman in the Tacoma young adults ward.
  • O’Connor worked as a prison guard at McNeil Island, in its sex offender unit.

In May 2023, the University Place School District agreed to pay a $9.5 million settlement to three former students who alleged that O’Connor abused them between 2005 and 2007 during an off-campus weightlifting and conditioning program the coach developed.

The settlement enabled the school district to avoid a jury trial.

From Yahoo News on May 22, 2023:

“Three former students who say they were sexually abused by a volunteer wrestling coach will be paid $9.5 million by the University Place School District.

The district agreed to pay a settlement to avoid a jury trial that was slated to begin on Monday.

The lawsuit by the former students alleges they were sexually abused by the coach between 2005 and 2007 during an off-campus weightlifting and conditioning program the coach developed. The students were between 14 and 16 years old.

The man was a volunteer coach at Curtis Junior High and Curtis High School from 2003 to 2010.

According to Vincent Nappo of the law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, the school district should never have let the man coach at the schools because he had been previously convicted of crimes against children.

“We uncovered evidence that (the coach) was found guilty in 1977 of sexually abusing five children in Chehalis, Washington. Unfortunately, the District did not flag his criminal history in its hiring and screening process before giving him a coaching position,” said Nappo.

Nappo said the plaintiffs alleged that the district did not enforce safe boundaries between the coach and the student wrestlers.

“A number of witnesses were going to testify at trial that (the coach) was known to be ‘touchy feely’ towards boys and acted inappropriately in the locker room. In addition, it was known among coaches that (he) spent time alone with students off campus weightlifting. We believe (his) locker room behavior and out-of-school contact with students should have raised concerns,” said Nappo.

The University Place School District released the following statement regarding the settlement:

“University Place School District’s first priority is to provide a safe and positive educational experience for all of its students. The District recently reached a settlement with several former students who alleged sexual abuse by a former parent and volunteer coach in the wrestling program between 2005 and 2008. The settlement is being paid by the District’s insurers. The parent has not been associated with the District for many years. We are deeply saddened by these allegations and are sorry for any pain or suffering that students may have experienced. Out of respect for the privacy of those involved we are unable to provide additional comments.””

from PCVA Law – accessed May 23, 2023:

“In 1977, sexual predator David O’Connor was convicted on various felony charges of “indecent liberties” with minors. He was admitted to the Sexual Psychopath Program at Western State Hospital for inpatient therapy, discharged, readmitted and discharged, and ultimately released from supervision based on many positive recommendations from his employer and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), of which O’Connor had been an active member. In particular, James R. Ely, the president of the Tacoma Washington South Stake, was one of David O’Connor’s most fervent advocates and wrote that he “would be happy to sponsor or take responsibility for Mr. O’Connor at any time … [and] would be happy to give [his] personal guarantee that [Mr. O’Connor] is no longer a threat to society.”
Where did David O’Connor sexually abuse his victims?

Despite his felony conviction of Indecent Liberties, the LDS church allowed David O’Connor to participate in its church activities and take an active role in its Scout Troops until 2014. O’Connor was also hired by the University Place School District, where he served as a volunteer assistant coach at Curtis Junior High School from 2003 – 2006 and at Curtis High School from 2006 – 2008, roles that provided him unfettered access to children.
What are the charges against David O’Connor?

The years following his release from the Sexual Psychopath Program saw no end to his sexual predation. In 2022, the University Place School District agreed to pay more than $4.2 million to former student-athletes who allegedly suffered sexual abuse by O’Connor. The suit accused the school district of breaching many of its duties, including failure to protect children from sexual abuse by hiring O’Connor. Attorneys for the victims say the alleged abuse occurred on school grounds and in various homes. The settlements went to six former student-athletes who were sometimes told that O’Connor needed to examine them for fitness to engage in the sport – followed by fondling and other sex acts. In all, 11 individuals have filed civil claims alleging they were sexually abused by O’Connor, and some cases against the school district remain in litigation.”

from Washington Law Center – accessed May 23, 2023:

“CASE UPDATE: Washington Law Center has recently recovered nearly $14 million dollars for victims abuse suffered at the hands of wrestling coach David O’Connor in the University Place School District.

David O’Connor – LDS Church “Guaranteed” Safety of Sex Offender

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the LDS Church, failed the Tacoma Community. Instead of vigorously defending the safety of children, it went out of its way to not only vouch for David O’Connor, a convicted child sex offender, but was “happy to guarantee” that this sex offender was “no threat to society”.

Unfortunately, in the years following this personal guarantee, David O’Connor went on to sexually abuse scores of children throughout the University Place and Tacoma Region.

On October 18, 1977, David O’Connor was convicted of three felonies relates to sexual acts with children. Specifically, David O’Connor was deemed a “sexual psychopath” by the State of Washington and confined to prison after being found guilty of sex crimes.

[…]

David O’Connor was an active member of the LDS Church. After he was convicted of sex crimes against children, a “church court” was held and David O’Connor “disfellowshiped” from the Church. Yet, he continued to try and participate in Church activities. Ultimately, due to his persistence, the Church granted his fellowship prior to 1980 during the time he was in sex offender treatment.

Beyond granting fellowship to a convicted sex offender who was actively in sex offender treatment for crimes against children, Bishop James Ely of the South Tacoma Stake befriended O’Connor and worked to get him released from sex offender treatment. This conduct failed the Tacoma Community.

Specifically, as you can read below, Bishop James R. Ely, critiqued the sex offender treatment that David O’Connor was receiving and indicated that by continuing in it there would be a “marked deterioration” to him. Bishop Ely did not believe that the sex offender treatment “would do anybody any good, especially Mr. O’Connor”, the convict.
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Tacoma LDS Church Member – Convicted Sexual Predator
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About David O’Connor

David O’Connor was an active member of the LDS Church. After he was convicted of sex crimes against children, a “church court” was held and David O’Connor “disfellowshiped” from the Church. Yet, he continued to try and participate in Church activities. Ultimately, due to his persistence, the Church granted his fellowship prior to 1980 during the time he was in sex offender treatment.
Additional Details

Beyond granting fellowship to a convicted sex offender who was actively in sex offender treatment for crimes against children, Bishop James Ely of the South Tacoma Stake befriended O’Connor and worked to get him released from sex offender treatment. This conduct failed the Tacoma Community.

Specifically, as you can read below, Bishop James R. Ely, critiqued the sex offender treatment that David O’Connor was receiving and indicated that by continuing in it there would be a “marked deterioration” to him. Bishop Ely did not believe that the sex offender treatment “would do anybody any good, especially Mr. O’Connor”, the convict.

Beyond granting fellowship to a convicted sex offender who was actively in sex offender treatment for crimes against children, Bishop James Ely of the South Tacoma Stake befriended O’Connor and worked to get him released from sex offender treatment. This conduct failed the Tacoma Community.

Specifically, as you can read below, Bishop James R. Ely, critiqued the sex offender treatment that David O’Connor was receiving and indicated that by continuing in it there would be a “marked deterioration” to him. Bishop Ely did not believe that the sex offender treatment “would do anybody any good, especially Mr. O’Connor”, the convict.

After critiquing the treatment that was designed to rehabilitate sex offenders and keep the public safe, Bishop Ely went ever further, in that, he requested that David O’Connor be released prior to completing the treatment. As seen above, Bishop Ely wrote that he would be “happy to sponsor or take responsibility for Mr. O’Connor at any time.” Beyond that, Bishop Ely wrote that, “I would be happy to guarantee that [David O’Connor] is rehabilitated and ready to continue progressing in his life, and that he no longer needs the help of Western State Hospital.”

Ultimately, David O’Connor was released and welcome back into the Tacoma LDS Community. The Bishop had a made a personal guarantee of safety and with that David O’Connor became increasingly involved with Boy Scouts, wrestling, weight lifting and other associated activities. He preyed on children. Many of the children he abused were young boys that were told to trust David O’Connor. They were encouraged to spend time with him. The conduct of the Church leadership at that time failed the many victims of David O’Connor.

As time progressed it has been learned that many members of the community, some of which are still very active within the LDS Church, were abused. They feel that they were betrayed by the Church leadership and desire accountability.

[…]

In 1977, David O’Connor was arrested for indecent liberties against a minor child in Lewis County, Washington. A court deemed O’Connor to be a “sexual psychopath” and ordered him to not have any contact with children under the age of 15. Yet, David O’Connor was then given unfettered access to children, via the wrestling program, at Curtis Junior High School in University Place, Washington.

[…]

According to legal filings, David O’Connor has been charged with multiple counts of third-degree child molestation. The alleged incidents of sexual abuse took place on school grounds as well as at a number of homes in the area.

O’Connor served as a volunteer assistant coach at Curtis Junior High School during the 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06 school years and also at Curtis High School during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

[…]

Prior to his time with Curtis Junior High’s wrestling team, assistant coach David O’Connor was convicted of indecent liberties and identified as a “sexual psychopath”, according to Court records.

David O’Connor regularly performed what he would describe as “hernia” or “prostate” exams on athletes which were merely a guise to fondle young boys. It has also been alleged that David O’Connor repeatedly sexually assaulted young boys and had them perform sex acts in front of him.

The victims of David O’Connor’s abuse have suffered lifelong harm and are seeking justice.

The University Place School District and Curtis Junior High School owed a duty of care towards its students to keep them safe. They are negligent for hiring a sexual psychopath to supervise, coach or interact with its students.

Scores of children have come forward and are seeking justice. Ashton Dennis along with the team at Washington Law Center represents a number of O’Connor’s victims. We encourage anyone who has been abused by David O’Connor to contact our office immediately, as we are working diligently on these claims. Equally, those with information related to David O’Conner are asked to contact us immediately.”

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