CHICAGO (CN) - The coordinator of a United Airlines-funded program for disadvantaged students sexually abused boys until one of his victims shot him to death, seven men claim in a lawsuit against United Continental airlines.
Seven John Does sued United Continental Holdings, United Airlines, CEO Gerald Greenwald, and United Airlines Foundation.
The plaintiffs participated in the United Airlines Believers Program for disadvantaged youth at James Weldon Johnson Elementary School in Chicago in 1995, according to the complaint.
"In exchange for scholarships and mentoring, student participants of the program agreed to attend after-school study sessions, overnight camping trips, field trips and publicity events," the men say.
United Airlines hired Marvin Lovett as project coordinator, according to the lawsuit in Cook County Court.
In that position, Lovett subjectively selected students for the program, had regular contact with participants, and was granted money to spend at his discretion.
All seven Does say that Lovett sexually abused them during the program, and that he "coerced, manipulated, and intimidated" them Does into remaining silent about it.
Doe #1 claims, "Lovett used discretionary funds to give shoes, jackets and cash to John Doe #1 so he would participate in, and remain silent about, the sexual abuse.
"Lovett sexually abused John Doe #1 multiple times a week from 1996 until 2000.
"These repeated acts of sexual abuse by Lovett included forcing John Doe #1 to perform and receive oral and anal sex.
"The acts of sexual abuse perpetrated on John Doe #1 by Lovett physically took place at James Weldon Johnson Elementary School, during overnight camping trips, and at Lovett's home before, during and after program activities," the complaint states.
The other six men make similar allegations.
Lovett was shot to death in 2000, by one of his victims, Sylvester Jamison, who was a participant in the Believers program. He is serving time for second-degree murder, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"During the investigation of Lovett's death, the police found 140 videotapes of Lovett engaged in sexual acts with minors, including some of the plaintiffs," the complaint states.
All seven men say they were questioned "as a suspect in Lovett's death because [they were] depicted in some of the video tapes found in Lovett's possession," but they were unaware of the recordings until that time.
They accuse United Airlines of failing to properly screen and supervise Lovett in his interactions with students, or to respond to parents who raised concerns in 1996 about Lovett's behavior.
The company "allowed Lovett unchecked authority in the verbal allocation and assurance of scholarships to student participants," and failed to monitor his use of program funds to buy gifts for his victims, the plaintiffs say.
The men are represented by Lyndsay Markley.
United told the Chicago Tribune it "donated to this program nearly 20 years ago, with the understanding that it sought to provide often-inaccessible opportunities to Chicago youth with great potential."
It added: "We strongly disagree that those donations constitute condoning the reprehensible acts of one individual involved in the program."