Lawsuit against church youth leader, Charlotte Catholic Diocese alleges sexual assault, negligence

SALISBURY, N.C. — A civil lawsuit filed Thursday in Mecklenburg County claims that John Brian Kaup, who was in the seminary training to become a priest, used his position as a youth counselor at Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury to sexually abuse a teenage girl.

The Charlotte Catholic Diocese and Bishop Peter Jugis are also named in a lawsuit, saying they failed to protect the teenager.

The 24-page civil lawsuit names the Charlotte Diocese, Bishop Peter Jugis and Kaup, who was in the seminary and training to become a priest, as defendants.

Court documents said the girl and Kaup met through church activities when she was 13 years old and he was 24. The civil lawsuit said Kaup’s position as a youth group adviser caused the teenage girl to see Kaup as a trusted counselor and adviser, and as someone whose motives and actions were not to be questioned.

In 2013, when the girl was 16 years old, Kaup began to groom her for manipulation and assault, according to court documents.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Leto Copeley, told Channel 9 that Kaup encouraged the teen to confide in him, including her thoughts about sex.

“He would help her and that they could mutually talk to each other about their sexual urges and that this would make it easier to resist them,” Copeley said.

The lawsuit claims on Christmas night in 2013, the family invited the church’s priest to dinner and he asked to bring Kaup as well. It went on to say that Kaup asked the teenage girl if she would like to go somewhere and talk after dinner.

Copeley said Kaup drove to the Sacred Heart property and sexually assaulted the then-17-year-old in his car.

“She was very trapped, alone in a car with him in a field and then he raped her,” Copeley said.

“She was raped on church property?” asked anchor Allison Latos.

“Yes ma’am,” Copeley said.

The civil lawsuit claimed that Kaup manipulated the plaintiff and used her fear as a way to keep having sex with her, and she was afraid to tell anyone.

“She was told it would be damaging to her reputation, people would turn against her,” Copeley said.

Copeley told Channel 9 that last spring, the teenager told her parents about the alleged assault and they filed a report with the Salisbury Police Department. Police decided not to press charges due to lack of evidence in the case.

Copeley said the family’s only recourse was a civil lawsuit.

A spokesperson for the Charlotte Catholic Diocese said the Diocese cannot comment on the lawsuit, but said Kaup is not currently an employee of the Diocese or involved in its ministry.

Channel 9 tried unsuccessfully to contact Kaup Friday afternoon, but so far he has not returned Channel 9’s phone call.

The lawsuit said Kaup left the seminary in 2014. In the summer of 2014, Kaup was transferred to St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville, where he became a youth minister, according to the court documents.

Kaup is no longer working at St. Mark’s but the Diocese and church would not tell Channel 9 when his work ended or why.

The lawsuit claims negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, loss of services and punitive damages.

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