By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A former Hakalau man is being accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing boys he had adopted and using them for cheap labor on his farm.
A Honolulu man, identified as John Roe 8, filed the lawsuit Friday in Hawaii First District Court against his adopted father, Jay Ram.
The lawsuit claims Ram, also known as Gary Winnick, abused his adopted boys on the farm and controlled their lives, prohibiting them from visiting friends, having girlfriends, or playing sports.
The plaintiff was allegedly abused in the 1980s, before and after Ram moved to Hakalau from California with the plaintiff and other boys.
The lawsuit doesn’t say how many boys were abused, but another four victims are considering coming forward, said Joelle Casteix, western regional director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The group, formed initially to help those abused by priests, is assisting the plaintiff, who is about 40 years old.
Casteix said Ram, who may now live in India, had adopted at least a dozen boys over the years.
“He adopted them when they were most vulnerable,” she said. “He gave them a home and he sexually abused them.”
Casteix said Ram also tried to keep the boys out of school and created a “Lord of the Flies” environment, where the older boys helped carry out discipline.
They moved to the farm in 1987, which was undeveloped at the time.
Casteix said Ram used the boys to build the farm.
“They did everything,” she said. “They were being used for slave labor. At night he would sexually abused the boys.”
Casteix said Ram also threatened the boys to keep them from going to authorities or corroborating claims of abuse.
In 1992, he was accused of sexually abusing a boy who visited the farm over the weekend.
The charges were dropped, Casteix said, because none of the boys would confirm what happened.
Ram also sued the state for taking the children out of his custody, following the charges. He eventually settled, according to SNAP.
The plaintiff is able to file a lawsuit, though the alleged abuse occurred decades ago, due to a two-year window provided by the state that allows victims to file civil suits past the statue of limitations.
Casteix said the victims had considered seeking criminal charges before but couldn’t due to time limits.
She said the plaintiff and SNAP hope that the lawsuit will encourage others who were abused or may have been aware of it to come forward, even if Ram cannot be located.
Ram had also worked with the University of Hawaii at Hilo in agricultural research.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.