A long-running legal fight seeking to hold a former Delaware judge accountable for claims of sexual assault has ended.
A Delaware man and former Judge William C. Bradley Jr. have settled a lawsuit that claimed Bradley assaulted the plaintiff from the time he was a teen until he was in his ’30s, according to court filings.
It’s a quiet end to litigation that was twice dismissed by lower courts before being revived by the Delaware Supreme Court in a decade long legal fight. The terms of the settlement are hidden from public review in court filings.
In an email, an attorney representing the plaintiff wrote he could only say the matter was resolved “confidentially.”
The plaintiff, a former inmate in Delaware prison, could not be reached for comment. Delaware Online/The News Journal does not identify victims of sexual assault unless they choose to identify themselves.
Mark Reardon, Bradley’s attorney, declined to comment.
In court filings dating back to 2009, the plaintiff says Bradley first took advantage of his broken childhood and eventually used his power as a judge to continue his abusive grip into the plaintiff’s adulthood.
At age 15, he was living in a foster home near Bradley’s Townsend residence. He was playing in the woods near Bradley’s home when he met him. Bradley, who had been on the bench since 1974, told him the plaintiff “needed a father figure” and he would serve that role.
Instead, Bradley began sexually assaulting him, the lawsuit states. This happened numerous times at both Bradley’s home and in his court chambers, the complaint states.
The plaintiff has been in and out of prison since he was 21.
In court documents, the plaintiff said Bradley would come to his court hearings and talk about how the plaintiff needed a place to call home, a “place to feel belonging.”
The plaintiff said he was in prison at ages 21, 23 and 33 and the assaults would resume “immediately” upon his release. He wasn’t allowed to visit Bradley in his chambers, but said Bradley would cover for him.
The plaintiff said it became a pattern ingrained in him because he never “psychologically matured” beyond the first abuse.
The final assault is alleged to have occurred in 2008 when the plaintiff had turned 33 and had just gotten out of prison. In his chambers, Bradley told him he could “either help or hurt him,” according to the lawsuit.
According to court records “the plaintiff did not invite these sexual offenses upon himself, nor were the interactions consensual in any way.”
The plaintiff is a registered sex offender himself. He’s been arrested for exposing himself to children and served a prison sentence tied to a plea for unlawful sexual contact with a child and loitering as a sex offender. Public records indicate he is no longer incarcerated.
After the alleged 2008 assaults by Bradley, he wrote a former superior court judge reporting the judge’s conduct and demanding he be removed. He stated that his own crimes are an extension of Bradley’s abuse. He asked to remain anonymous then.
“I have become a reflection of him,” he wrote.
A year later, in January 2010, Bradley stood in front of the New Castle County Courthouse and read a two-sentence statement admitting to molesting a different boy, Gregory Kelly, in the 1970s. He resigned and was disbarred that year.
The admission was part of a legal settlement between Bradley and Kelly as well as another victim who sued the judge claiming abuse.
Those victims were able to sue because of a movement by state lawmakers to loosen rules that constrained child sex abuse victims from seeking damages as adults.
Prompted partially by disclosures of sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, state lawmakers in 2007 passed the Delaware Child Victims Act. That act did away with the two-year statute of limitations for child sex abuse moving forward and opened up a special window for old claims that were previously time-barred.
The plaintiff filed his initial lawsuit in the spring of 2010, months after that special window closed. The Delaware Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal of any claims of abuse that took place in the 1990s.
But the ruling held that claims of abuse in 2008 remained viable and are subject to the ongoing legal action that was settled. Those claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations that governs claims of harm by adults.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit sought damages from Bradley. In letters that are part of court filings, he said the state is at fault for failing to protect him.
Source: DELAWARE ONLINE