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 Doe 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.
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.”
In 1992, he was accused of sexually abusing a boy who visited the farm.
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 statute 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.