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Okla. megachurch, mom of rape victim settle suit

Updated at: 11/21/2013 3:35 PM
By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS

(AP) TULSA, Okla. - A Tulsa megachurch has settled a lawsuit brought by a mother whose then-13-year-old daughter was raped last year in a ministry stairwell by a janitor.

Details of the settlement between the 17,000-member Victory Christian Center and the mother _ approved Tuesday by a judge _ were confidential, and a church spokesman declined to comment further on the case Thursday.

"We want to give it time for things to settle down out of respect for everyone involved," said spokesman Justin Johnson. "And at a later point, there may be more opportunity to speak to this."

Michael Atkinson, an attorney for the mother, said the settlement represented "a positive resolution of a bad situation for the child and her mother."

Malinda Matlock, an attorney for the ministry, said the agreement was reached after the parties met last month to negotiate.

"All the parties are pleased that a mutual agreement could be reached," she said.

The ex-janitor, who pleaded guilty to raping the teenager, was sentenced in December to 55 years in prison.

Five Victory employees _ including the son and daughter-in-law of ministry co-founder and head pastor Sharon Daugherty _ were charged because they waited two weeks before reporting the girl’s rape to authorities.

The mother accused the church in the lawsuit of caring more about doing damage control than about what happened to her daughter. Until the settlement, the church had repeatedly denied that claim. The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual assault and is not identifying the mother so as to not identify her daughter.

Another former janitor at the church was sentenced last month to 18 months in prison for a sex crime unrelated to the rape.

The scandals roiled the large evangelical church, which is across the street from Oral Roberts University in south Tulsa. This summer, Victory leaders said the church had reached out to two state agencies to help update its child abuse and neglect manual and ramped up security measures across its sprawling campus.

"As a church, we are learning from the past and continually looking ahead for ways in which we can better serve our community and our members," Daugherty told the AP then.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)