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Millions Awarded To Woman Who Accused Jason McLean Of Abuse; Children's Theatre Found Negligent

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A jury has awarded millions of dollars to a sexual assault survivor who was abused by a man who worked at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. The jury also determined the theatre was negligent and did not protect kids there.

There was a lot of emotion in court Friday as three women, all students at CTC in the late 70s and early 80s, share their stories of abuse tied to Jason McLean or his coworkers.

The judge's verdict is worth $3.68 million against McLean.

Plaintiff and survivor Laura Stearns doesn't believe she'll see any of that as McLean, who represented himself, has fled the country. Stearns says she was only 15 years old when McLean sexually assaulted her while she was a student at the CTC.

This is the second judgment against him. The first, worth $2.5 million, came in November 2017 after he failed to appear in court.

McLean is now required to pay $3.68 million in damages to Stearns.

This time around, the judge also found the CTC negligent, but did not find their negligence caused the abuse.

Stearns' lawsuit was the first of more than a dozen filed beginning in 2015 by former CTC students Friday, victims shared why they still hold CTC responsible and after decades, and why the #MeToo movement prompted them to speak up.

Jason McLean In 2015
Jason McLean in 2015 (credit: CBS)

"If they can speak out about this powerful figure, I can speak out about my perpetrator and the institution that allowed him and other perpetrators to be successful in their abuse of me and my friends," Sterns said. "I had to break my own fear and shame, and it was one of the hardest things I've had to do."

"Thirty-five years of the theatre saying, 'Geez, it's OK, it's your fault, you guys didn't tell the truth, it's the kids fault, they didn't step up,'" plaintiff and survivor Jeanette Simmonds said. "We weren't allowed to step up."

The CTC released this statement after the verdict:

We thank the jury for its efforts to reach a just verdict and believe that the legal system afforded the parties a fair and impartial opportunity to make their cases and to have their truths be known. We wish Ms. Stearns success in her efforts to collect the jury's award from her abuser.

Child safety is our highest priority and our rigorous policies and day-to-day practices reflect this priority. This is an area in which we will never say 'enough' but will instead strive to be better today than we were yesterday, and even better tomorrow.

Along with being a theatre teacher, McLean was also a prominent restaurant owner in town. WCCO-TV tried reaching out to him, but we were unable to make contact.

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