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Child victim sexually assaulted by basketball coach in 1979 now sues Bangor YMCA for negligence

The sign for the Bangor Region YMCA on Union Street in Bangor.
Natalie Williams
The sign for the Bangor Region YMCA on Union Street in Bangor.

A man who was sexually assaulted by his basketball coach in 1979 at the age of 13 is now filing a lawsuit against the Bangor Region YMCA seeking damages for negligence.

The suit filed on behalf of Wayne Quimby alleges the Y failed to conduct a background search before hiring William Kearns as a basketball coach. Kearns — who’d been previously convicted for a sex-related crime — coached Quimby's team when Kearns sexually assaulted the then 13 year old. While Kearns was later arrested and convicted for Quimby's assault, the suit alleges his criminal record should have barred him from ever being hired by the YMCA.

“A simple background check at the time would have shown that and should have caused the Bangor Y to ask questions," said Tim Kenlan, Wayne Quimby's attorney. "Hopefully [the YMCA] would not have hired him to this position had they known that. It’s important to not only hold the abuser himself accountable, but also the organization that knew or should have known that this was a danger.”

The suit also alleges Quimby first reported the assault to the manager of the Y, which did not amount to any action. Kenlan says his client later turned to substance abuse to cope with the trauma caused by the assault.

“[Quimby] has led a pretty difficult life, and all these [issues] seem to stem from the abuses he endured when he was 13," said Kenlan. "There’s no amount of money out there that a jury could award that would fully make this abuse never have happened, but there can be accountability, and full and fair compensation.”

Maine passed a law three years ago lifting the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims.

The legal counsel for the Bangor Region YMCA issued the following statement when asked for comment:

"The Bangor Region YMCA’s highest priority is the health and safety of the children in its care. While it would be inappropriate to comment specifically on pending litigation, we can say that Mr. Quimby‘s claims are alleged to have occurred 45 years ago, and his complaint asserts that the alleged incident did not happen at the Bangor Y. While we certainly have compassion for any misfortunes that Mr. Quimby may have encountered in his life, we do not believe the Y should fairly be blamed for them. The Bangor Y has one of the strictest background checks in the State of Maine. It adheres to, and takes very seriously, child safety measures, including rigorous training for all of its staff.  Our Y does not, and will not, tolerate any violations of these strict policies or practices."

Nick Song is Maine Public's inaugural Emerging Voices Fellowship Reporter.

Originally from Southern California, Nick got his start in radio when he served as the programming director for his high school's radio station. He graduated with a degree in Journalism and History from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University -- where he was Co-News Director for WNUR 89.3 FM, the campus station.