After watching recent campaign ads declaring a children’s camp run by Raphael Warnock being shut down due to instances of abuse and neglect, TVR editors decided to fact-check and investigate the matter for ourselves. Here’s what we found
Here are the facts as we’ve uncovered them:
Raphael Warnock served as senior pastor at Baltimore's Douglas Memorial Community Church from 2001 until around 2005. His job included overseeing the expansion of the church’s sleepaway camp, Camp Farthest Out, which served inner-city children.
At least three state agencies—the Maryland State Police, the Department of Social Services, and the Department of Health—looked into allegations of child abuse at the camp between 2002 and 2003, according to government records.
When inspectors from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene visited Camp Farthest Out in 2002, they also found multiple health and safety violations.
"Staff are not supervising campers," wrote a health inspector in a July 31, 2002, report. "Conversations w/ medical staff & pool staff indicate that this is routine among the counselors. It was observed during inspection today."
In June 2003, the Department of Health denied Camp Farthest Out's certificate to operate a youth camp. One reason for the denial, according to the records, was that the camp failed to report at least five findings of child abuse levied against its director, Brian Carter, by the Department of Social Services.
Among the victims of abuse was 12-year-old Anthony Washington. Instances of abuse he endured at the church camp overseen by Reverend Raphael Warnock were having counselors toss urine on him and locking him outside of his cabin overnight.
Washington, now 30, recounted the events and said his experience at the camp resulted in a 2003 lawsuit that ended two years later when Washington says he and his family received a large financial settlement.
Washington’s account of the 2002 events provides the first direct insight into the alleged abuse and neglect that transpired at Camp Farthest Out, which Warnock oversaw as senior pastor of Maryland's Douglas Memorial Community Church, and raises new questions for the Democrat, who is presently locked in a tight runoff election to win a full term as a US Senator for the State of Georgia.
"I don’t think nobody like [Warnock] should be running for damn Senate nowhere, running a camp like that," he said. "He should not be running for government."
Warnock has faced scrutiny over his 2002 arrest for allegedly obstructing a child abuse investigation by Maryland State Police that centered on the camp's treatment of children. Washington's account is buttressed by records from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which we obtained earlier this month – a report which indicated that campers were frequently left unsupervised. Other issues that were found included staffers not being subject to a required criminal background check; and at least five cases of child abuse or neglect which were brought against the camp's director, who was ultimately forced to resign.
We reached out to Washington and members of his family because their names appear on the lawsuit filed against Warnock, the camp, and several of the counselors.
"I just wanted to get the hell away from that camp," Washington said in an interview. "I didn’t want to spend another day there. … That camp was real messed up."
A court docket from the case shows that lawyers from both sides moved to dismiss the case "with prejudice" in May 2005.
This is what occurs in such court proceedings when a resolution to the case has been settled between the parties out of court. Officials from the courthouse and the Maryland state archives told us that they are unable to locate any records from the case, which is usually the case when such a matter is unilaterally dismissed due to an out-of-court settlement.
What’s more, the lawyer who represented Washington’s family said he was unable to discuss the matter on the record. Such Non-disclosure gag orders often accompany large out-of-court settlements where the payor makes their ultimate refusal to publicly admit any wrongdoing as an iron-clad part of the settlement. Breaching that aspect of the agreement would summarily void the deal and make the payee liable to repay the full amount of the settlement - something that virtually none of them could ever manage to do financially.
Washington’s sister, Dominique, who also attended Camp Farthest Out the summer her brother did, also declared that he was abused and corroborated the family’s involvement in the lawsuit. Another source close to the Washington family told The Veracity Report that the lawsuit was related to an incident when counselors "poured urine on [Anthony], at the camp."
Both Washington and his sister Dominique told us that the counselors were young, in their late teens or early 20s, and showed little interest in taking care of the campers. As punishment for wetting his bed, he said a counselor forced him to spend the next night sleeping outside by himself on the basketball court.
"I’m like, ‘Hell no I’m not, it’s cold out there,’" he said. "[The counselors] wouldn’t let me in the house, not at all. … Shut the door to the cabin, locked it," he said. "It was dark. There wasn’t nothing out there but the basketball court. I ain’t never experienced nothing like that. Like, you’re not in a tent, you’re not in nothing. You’re just out, God knows where."
When prompted for further details, Washington admitted counselors also threw urine on him from a bucket they used when there wasn’t a bathroom nearby.
"I went through that experience myself. I don’t even like talking about this shit. That shit happened. … It was like in a bucket. They would keep that shit in a bucket," he said.
Washington said he saw counselors "grab kids," but didn’t know the extent of abuse at the camp or whether others had experiences similar to his. "I just knew that shit happened to me, and that’s what I was worried about, me and my sister," he said.
Campers were prohibited from calling their parents, he said. When he was finally able to tell his mother what happened, she was furious at the camp. "I can hear her in there, screaming at them," Washington said. "Next thing I knew, my mother was going to court. … I thank my mother for doing what she did. She is a lifesaver."
The family eventually received an extremely large financial settlement in the case, Washington said.
To add even more validity to the allegations, Warnock was actually arrested at Camp Farthest Out on July 31, 2002, after a Maryland state trooper said he repeatedly disrupted her interviews with counselors while she was investigating allegations of child abuse.
In it, Warnock and another reverend were charged with "hindering and obstructing" police, but the charges were later dropped by the state prosecutor.
As always, The Veracity Report will keep you up to date on breaking developments regarding this matter as they develop.
Veracity Editor's Note:
This unbiased, non-satirical, fully attributed article was thoroughly researched by our team of fact-checkers and found to be accurate. The sources relied upon for the factual basis of this article were: The Washington Free Beacon, The Associated Press, Reuters, and veracityreport.org.
More information on this and all our stories are available on our network website veracityreport.org.
This article was compiled and written by Chief Political Correspondent Kurt Dillon – Because the Truth Matters!
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