‘There was no justice’: Child Victims legislation advocate pursues abuse case

by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor

Cambridge resident Joel Juers, 47, took an interest in news reports Friday, Oct. 4, about a former Shattuck-St. Mary’s teacher and dorm parent Lynn Seibel being sentenced in Rice County Court in Faribault for molesting students years ago.

Joel Juers (Submitted photo)

Joel Juers (Submitted photo)

Juers, himself, is taking civil action against his alleged abuser, another Shattuck-St. Mary’s staff member. The sexual abuse allegedly took place 33 years ago.

Seibel was sentenced to up to four years and three months in prison and 30 years probation. Juers’ first reaction to the sentencing was that it was not that severe.

The former teacher now must register as a sex offender. He was immediately transported to the St. Cloud Correctional Facility to begin serving his sentence.

Seibel, 71, pleaded guilty in July to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, five counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count for use of minors in a sexual performance. He was charged in October 2012 with 17 felony charges that included counts of second- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with the victim being age 15-17 and the perpetrator in a position of authority. Ten of the charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Juers last November brought charges against Joseph Carl Machlitt, 63, a former art and photography teacher at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault. Machlitt was charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree.

Machlitt, Seibel and another Shattuck-St. Mary’s staff member each faced sexual abuse charges stemming from alleged sexual abuse years ago.

The charges brought by Juers against Machlitt were dropped in early April of this year because of a statute of limitations. The charges went back to alleged abuse 33 years ago when Juers was 14.

After the charges against Machlitt were dismissed, Juers became an advocate for legislation proposed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act that would allow anyone who was sexually abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit at any time in the future against his or her abuser or against the institution facilitating the abuse. The legislation was passed by both the House and the Senate in May of this year, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton and enacted into law.

Juers’ civil action was made possible because of the passage of the Minnesota Child Victims Act legislation into law, he said.

Juers has retained Jeff Anderson & Associates, St. Paul, to defend his case. Jeff Anderson & Associates pioneered the use of civil litigation to seek justice for survivors of childhood sex abuse and is recognized as the nation’s premier law firm to represent victims of clergy sex abuse.

Last spring, Juers told ECM Publishers, “I am a Christian and have to weigh the questions of justice, vengeance and grace.” He continued, “I have to live with myself. Do I forgive? Or, do I exact some form of vengeance myself? Do I cause someone else to suffer? Do I cause this man, now 63, to suffer monetarily and publicly?”

Juers was pleased with the legislation that was adopted. Laws should reflect societal values, rather than have laws dictate societal values, he said.

“It was time for me to seek justice. Prior to the law being passed, there was no justice,” he added.

Juers is employed by the Elim Home & Rehabilitation Center in Princeton, and he is a full-time nursing student at Bethel University in St. Paul. He has a semester and a half remaining prior to receiving a nursing degree.

 

Howard Lestrud can be reached at howard.lestrud@ecm-inc.com.

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