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A Sussex County, Delaware congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been accused of concealing sexual abuse reports from secular authorities. Officials at the Delaware Attorney General’s Office say church elders in Seaford failed to report an abuse allegation against Katheryn Harris Carmean White, a teacher’s aide at Seaford Middle School. During the course of investigations, White confessed to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy.
In 2015, the Delaware Attorney General’s Office filed suit against the Seaford congregation, arguing that church elders had failed to uphold their duty to forward an abuse complaint against White to law enforcement. Prosecutors say that a 14-year-old boy told his mother in January 2013 that he was having a sexual relationship with Ms. White, also a member of the congregation. Katheryn Harris Carmean White was 34 years old at the time.
The same day, the boy and his mother went to disclose the abuse allegations with congregation elders Joel Mulchansingh and William Perkins. Authorities claim that the two men met with White a few days later. She admitted to the inappropriate relationship, telling the elders she had sex with the boy around 40 times over a 10-month period.
Under current Delaware law, any person or organization who knows or in good faith suspects that a child is being abused or neglected is required to call a 24-hour hotline to make a report. But officials at the Delaware Attorney General’s Office say neither Mulchansingh nor Perkins ever contacted the authorities to report the complaint or White’s confession.
Attorneys for the congregation argued that the elders had no obligation to report the abuse, given an exemption applying to attorney-client privilege and “that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession.”
Officials for the Attorney General’s Office filed suit, seeking a civil penalty of $10,000 from each defendant. In court filings, authorities argued that the congregation should be held accountable for failing to report the abuse because it should have known that the two elders had interviewed the 14-year-old boy but failed to manage their activities.
Katheryn Harris Carmean White was arrested in February of 2013. She was convicted on multiple counts of third-degree rape, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child. White was sentenced to serve six years in prison, WBOC reports.
There are reports that the 14-year-old boy, who has never been named, was excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for his role in the affair.