Tennessee man sues Branson's Kanakuk sports camp, alleges 'fraud' in 2010 sex-abuse settlement
Kanakuk is facing another civil lawsuit related to child sex abuse.
A 27-year-old Tennessee man filed a petition in Taney County courts on Thursday, Nov. 17, alleging Kanakuk — a popular Christian sports camp with its origins in the 1920s — lied about what it knew regarding sexual abuse of children by former camp counselor Peter Newman.
In 2010, Newman pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexually abusing kids while he worked as a Kanakuk counselor and camp director. He received a pair of life imprisonment sentences, plus 30 years.
In that same year, the Tennessee man, Logan Yandell, hashed out a settlement agreement with Kanakuk compensating Yandell for his abuse by Newman.
As part of the settlement, Yandell was paid an undisclosed sum of money by Kanakuk, according to the new lawsuit. He was also required to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the abuse he suffered, his lawyers said Friday, forbidding him from going public about his experiences with Newman.
Yandell’s lawsuit says he attended Kanakuk from ages 8 to 15. There, he was introduced to Newman. The abuse is alleged to have taken place from roughly 2005 to 2008.
The timing is an issue in the lawsuit.
Yandell and his attorneys allege Kanakuk committed fraud during 2010 settlement negotiations when camp officials failed to tell Yandell and his family about “key facts regarding Newman’s known patterns of sexually abusing minors throughout his employment.”
“The representations made by Defendants regarding prior knowledge of Newman’s patterns of sexually abusing minors were blatantly false,” one of Yandell’s attorneys said in a Friday news release.
The lawsuit documents numerous allegations against Newman dating back to the 1990s and says that as early as 2003 — two years before Yandell was allegedly abused — Kanakuk official Will Cunningham advised camp leaders to fire Newman, due to an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct.
Yandell’s attorneys say the Yandell family learned of Cunningham’s internal warning about Newman in late 2021 due to reporting by journalist Nancy French. French has written extensively about Kanakuk-related allegations for conservative online news site The Dispatch and for the Springfield News-Leader.
On Friday, Kanakuk did not directly respond to a request to make chief executive Joe White available for an interview with KSMU. Camp officials sent a statement, which KSMU is reproducing in its entirety:
“Kanakuk received this lawsuit only this morning, apparently after others had received copies of it. Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation. We will respond further if or when appropriate. In the meantime, we continue to pray for all who have been affected by Pete Newman’s behavior.”
In recent years, Kanakuk has also maintained publicly that when it learned of abuse by Newman and another former counselor, Lee Bradberry, it terminated those employees and reported them to law enforcement.