SANTA ANA — A former volunteer counselor at the Crystal Cathedral has been summoned to Superior Court today to face felony charges that he sexually molested a boy he met at rehearsals for a 1988 Christmas pageant at the Garden Grove church.
In a 12-page criminal information filed Aug. 10 by the Orange County district attorney's office, Bruce John Ward, 28, is charged with 79 counts of committing lewd sex acts on a minor over a three-year period beginning in January, 1989. The boy was 14 years old at that time and is now 19.
Ward, who now works for a Santa Ana court reporting service, has denied the youth's charges, and has filed a $5-million slander suit against the teen-ager in Superior Court. A second youth was also named in the slander action, accused of making similar charges against Ward.
Paul J. Wallin, Ward's attorney in both the civil and criminal court actions, said the Orange man was a youth guidance counselor at the Crystal Cathedral for about two years, between 1988 and 1990, and was involved in the production of the Christmas pageant.
Ward is "a very talented musician and singer," Wallin said.
A spokesman for the Crystal Cathedral said Ward had worked in the ministry's Anaheim warehouse from 1986 to 1988, and had performed as a volunteer in three music-related productions of the Youth Department. However, he said the church had so far been unable to verify that Ward served as a volunteer youth counselor from 1988 to 1990.
"This concerns us, of course," said the spokesman, Michael Nason. "Our prayers are for everyone involved. We have very high standards we ask all of our leaders to follow, and we have strict guidelines that we ask them to adhere to."
According to a city of Orange police report attached to Ward's slander suit, the youth told police that he first met Ward during a "rehearsal of the Christmas production put on by the Crystal Cathedral church. Ward was a church guidance counselor at the time."
The teen-ager told police that, shortly after their first encounter, he had sex with Ward in the man's rented room in Irvine. While there was no physical force involved, the youth told police he "felt angry but helpless" in the face of Ward's advances.
Because Ward, then 24, was older, "a strong Christian" and "everyone looked up to him," the youth told police, "I didn't fight it. I accepted it." Over time, the teen-ager said, their repeated sexual encounters "became a mutual thing."
Ward's attorney, however, said such sexual acts "never happened" between the two, and that Ward and the boy often double-dated, mostly with girls they both knew from the Crystal Cathedral.
Ward is now planning to be married, according to court papers, as is the youth.
The youth "became like a kid brother" to Ward, Wallin said. "The whole Ward family befriended this kid."
Wallin said that the teen-ager was "having problems with sex. He was very conflicted over whether he should remain a virgin until he was married. Bruce and others counseled him to remain a virgin until he was married, to go by the Bible . . . (but) he had tremendous difficulty controlling himself."
According to the police report, the youth said he moved briefly to Oklahoma in the summer of 1992 to escape Ward, who followed him there.
But Wallin said that the youth stayed with Ward's sister while in Oklahoma, and was accused of improper sexual conduct with the woman's 3-year-old daughter. According to a report filed by the Police Department in Shawnee, Okla., the teen-ager was investigated for touching the child's pubic area, but had returned to California and moved in with Ward by the time the case was referred to the local district attorney.
Wallin suggested that the youth accused Ward of molesting him, in hopes of getting the family to drop the Oklahoma charges against him.
The accuser told police he ended his sexual liaison with Ward in September, 1992, after telling his mother about the relationship. The mother then filed a child-abuse report with the Orange County Department of Social Services, which in turn notified Orange police.
Police asked the youth to submit to an examination by medical personnel at the Orangewood Children's Home. The Nov. 16, 1992, examination yielded "enough (evidence) to substantiate" the young man's account, according to the police report.
Wallin disputed the medical findings.
The slander suit was filed, Wallin said, because "long after a jury finds my client not guilty of these charges, his reputation will continue to be tarnished forever by these outrageous allegations."