Updated Thu, Feb 6, 2014 5:51 pm
The son-in-law of a convicted rapist is asking for a summary judgment in a civil suit against him, his wife and his father-in-law.
David Dearth filed an affidavit denying his knowledge of the crimes for which Thomas Shifflet was convicted, along with a motion to get a judgment from the Athens County Common Pleas Court absolving him for his part of the civil case.
Shifflet, 76, of Glouster, was convicted of gross sexual imposition against a child and later entered no contest pleas to gross sexual imposition against four children. He entered the no contest pleas as Alford pleas, meaning he admitted that prosecutors had enough evidence to garner a conviction but he did not admit wrongdoing. Shifflet received a five-year prison sentence.
Families involved in the charges filed civil suits against Shifflet and his two daughters, Jody Dearth and Tammy Gura. In June 2013, two families filed a suit against Down on the Farm Childcare, owned by Jody Dearth, and included Dearth's husband, David Dearth, in the lawsuit.
The suit asks for more than $25,000 in damages, claiming that Shifflet "intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and unlawfully engaged in sexual assault and battery, gross sexual imposition, and inappropriate sexual contact against and with two minors," according to court documents. The suit claims the Dearths are liable for the actions, despite the fact that they were not found criminally negligent.
The Dearths have denied any wrongdoing or liability, and in the most recent motion, filed Jan. 31, David Dearth asks for a judgment from the court that there is no issue with the material facts in the case.
In David Dearth's motion, attorney Mary Pisciotta argues that there was no "special relationship" between Shifflet and his son-in-law. The "special relationship" is a stipulation that is required to prove he had a role in the crimes against the children.
The families were unable to produce evidence that showed David Dearth "had actual or constructive knowledge of any untoward conduct," according to the motion.
It is also noted in the court documents that David Dearth owns Jody's Country Collectables," which is near but in a different building than the daycare facility where the children went while they attended the facility.
"David Dearth does not own nor does he have anything to do with the operation of the child care facility," Pisciotta wrote, citing an affidavit filed January 21.
The affidavit also states that David Dearth never witnessed Shifflet engaging in any "sexual assault, battery or inappropriate conduct."
"There is no evidence that David Dearth had the opportunity to control Thomas Shifflet or what happened at the day care facility," the motion stated. "There is no evidence that Thomas Shifflet's alleged criminal conduct was foreseeable."