Businessman faces lawsuits related to sexual abuse
WILLMAR — Willmar businessman Peter Clare Hoagland pleaded guilty in October to eight counts of criminal sexual conduct in Kandiyohi County District Court, but his use of an Alford plea means he never was asked to admit to specific allegations.
Two of the alleged victims in the case are now pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against Hoagland and his Willmar business, Pete’s Communications Inc. They’re each seeking $50,000 in damages.
While the two plaintiffs are not necessarily dissatisfied with the 18-1/2 - year prison sentence handed down in December against Hoagland, they believe there is more justice to be done.
“(Hoagland) waffled when it came to these two guys,” said Patrick Noaker, the attorney for the two plaintiffs. “He didn’t completely admit to abusing them.”
Though recorded as a guilty plea, an Alford plea requires only that a criminal defendant agree that there is sufficient evidence for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
One of the eight charges of which Hoagland was convicted is dated 1982, and the others are dated in the 1990s.
The two alleged victims, identified in court documents under pseudonyms John Doe 123 and John Doe 124, were children in the 1990s, 11 and 8 years old respectively, when they say Hoagland began sexually abusing them.
In their civil complaint, they list two counts of child sexual abuse/battery against Hoagland, and six civil counts against Pete’s Communications Inc., such as negligence, negligent supervision and negligent retention.
“A portion of the sexually abusive acts committed by Defendant Hoagland against John Doe 123 were committed on Pete’s Communications property and while Defendant Hoagland was performing work as an employee of Pete’s Communications,” the complaint states.
John Doe 124 also alleges that abusive acts were committed against him while Hoagland was performing work for the company.
“It was foreseeable to Pete’s Communications that Defendant Hoagland would sexually abuse John Doe 124,” the complaint says.
In a response, Hoagland and Pete’s Communications denied the allegations.
“Defendants deny that Defendant Pete Hoagland committed any wrongful acts with respect to these Plaintiffs,” Hoagland’s attorney Kathleen Loucks wrote, “and further specifically deny that Defendant Hoagland engaged in any wrongful conduct while acting in the course and scope of his employment.”
On Monday in Kandiyohi County District Court, a motion hearing on the case was held.
“Because of the fact that this was childhood sexual abuse, I asked the court to allow us to continue to use those (John Doe) pseudonyms,” Noaker said.
The national director and spokesman of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, David Clohessy, submitted an affidavit to the court in support of Noaker’s motion.
“Allowing child sex abuse victims to protect their identity from public disclosure by using pseudonyms such as John Doe or Jane Doe helps to abate the fears of widespread public disclosure,” Clohessy wrote.
In some cases, anonymity can make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to report abuse to law enforcement.
“My clients were able to move forward because they could use a John Doe and stay anonymous,” Noaker said. “And I’m not sure that they would have moved forward or taken any action without that option.”
That motion was granted Monday.
The plaintiffs also made a motion for prejudgment attachment of Hoagland’s assets Monday, attempting to stop him from selling or distributing them during the trial.
That motion was taken under advisement and will be decided at a later date.
No further hearings have been set in the case.