Fort Mill doctor's lawsuit against nonprofit CEO alleges sexual abuse

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jason Peck told Eyewitness News on Thursday that he's held a dark secret inside for most of his life.

"Over the past 32 years, I've lived with the painful secret that as a 12-year-old child, I was sexually abused," Peck said.

The Fort Mill doctor grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where, he said, he became friends with a neighbor, William B. Airey.

Airey, according to Peck's lawyers, was a volunteer with a local Moose International moose lodge at the time and began taking Peck to lodge functions.

In a civil lawsuit filed Thursday, Peck alleges that Airey sexually molested him twice in 1980. He said he's struggled with it for decades.

"From the day after it happened, I tried very hard to push away the dark, terrifying and sickening memories, fearing what would happen to me or my family if I spoke out," Peck said.

He told Eyewitness News he buried himself in his work, building a medical practice, and kept most of the details from his wife and parents, though he did tell them that he was abused.

Peck said Thursday that the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case at Penn State and other national cases finally pushed him to speak up about the alleged incidents from his past.

"The (Sandusky) story was out there every day. I wasn't able to turn it off. I wasn't able to escape that story," he said.

Peck is represented by Charlotte attorney Seth Langson, who specializes in sex abuse cases, and Durham attorney Leto Copeley.

They filed the lawsuit Thursday morning in Columbus, Ohio. The complaint accuses Airey of "grooming Peck for sexual abuse" and then abusing him once in Ohio and a second time on a trip to Louisiana for a moose lodge event.

The defendant is 71 years old and currently the CEO of Moose International. The organization, based outside Chicago, oversees roughly 2,000 Moose Lodge chapters nationwide, with nearly a million members, according to its website.

Moose International spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister sent Eyewitness News a statement following the filing of the lawsuit:

"Earlier today (Dec. 13), a complaint was filed in Ohio against William Airey, now director general and chief executive officer of Moose International, regarding an alleged incident 32 years ago. The Moose fraternity is shocked by this allegation, as this is not the Bill Airey we know.

"Although the Moose organization is not a party to this lawsuit, consistent with board policy Mr. Airey will not be in contact with residential students at Mooseheart until further notice.

"At this time Mr. Airey is out of the office, celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife. Upon his return, the board will ascertain all facts relating to this situation, and determine what actions, if any, are necessary.

"Thank you."

Langson said he believes there could be other potential victims out there who never came forward.

"We hope Jason's strength in bringing this complaint and putting his name on the case, instead of it being done as a John Doe or a Jane Doe, will help others get the strength to come forward," Langson said.

Peck said he wants to expose what happened to him and prevent it from happening to any other child.

"Sexual predators must be stopped," he said.

Lawyers said they were not aware of any criminal investigation going on related to the case.

Peck is suing for compensatory and punitive damages.