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Jury awards $1.5 million to man sexually abused as a boy at Tacoma Boys & Girls Club

More than 30 years after he was abused at the Tacoma Boys & Girls Club, Todd Wagner said he’s gotten closure and a little bit of justice.

The 47-year-old won his lawsuit against the nonprofit Friday when a Pierce County jury awarded him just more than $1.5 million.

Wagner asked The News Tribune to identify him by his name, rather than the initials used in the lawsuit.

“I have no reason to be ashamed of this or to hide from it,” he said. “I’m very proud of this moment. I stood up for myself.”

Carrie Holden, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, said in a statement Tuesday that the “Club remains the safest place for youth in the South Puget Sound community.” Staff and volunteers go through a background check and are trained to identify and report signs of abuse, Holden said.

As for the lawsuit, the statement said: “Despite our thorough search of our records, we found nothing that supported the claims made against us. We strongly defended the case in court and were surprised and disappointed last week in the verdict against the Club.”

The lawsuit alleged that a staff member and a serial pedophile who volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club both abused Wagner when he was 13. It was negligent of the nonprofit to let those men be in positions of trust with children, Wagner argued.

Explaining why it took decades for him to come forward, Wagner said: “I just didn’t want any of this to come out. And you avoid these things, repress them. Later in life, for whatever reason, you just start reflecting on different things. ‘Why am I in this place in life?’ Different things start to come to light, and different things start to add up.

“I needed closure. I needed some accountability. I needed some form of justice.”

The men he accused of abusing him were not criminally charged, but the serial pedophile, 65-year-old Charles Richard Patrick Urlacher, served prison time for two unrelated child-rape convictions.

In 2011, Urlacher was civilly committed to the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island — the state’s facility for sexually violent predators.

Wagner said he was on the witness stand for five and a half hours during his civil trial.

One of his attorneys, Lincoln Beauregard, said Friday, “The jurors seemed really focused on the lack of training on the part of the Boys & Girls Club, back at the time. And they found my client to be very credible and persuasive.”

The nonprofit indicated Tuesday that it was still figuring out how to pay the judgment.

“In the coming months, we must evaluate our capacity to provide program services, due to the financial impact of this lawsuit,” Holden’s statement said. “We will be examining our budget and determining how best to avoid impacts to existing program services.”

Asked for further specifics about the likelihood of cuts to services, club spokeswoman Jinnie Horan said they would “know more in the coming days and months.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell
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