Lawsuits Filed Against Naugatuck Teen Theater, Landmark Community Theater, Warner Theater, Thomaston Opera House, and Theater Director
WATERBURY – Three former participants of Connecticut community theaters have filed lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, assault and exploitation by theater director, Daniel Checovetes.
The lawsuits were filed in Waterbury Superior Court against Naugatuck Teen Theater, Landmark Community Theatre, Warner Theatre, and Thomaston Opera House (through the Commission and Town). Naugatuck Teen Theater is a youth program in Naugatuck, Connecticut open to all 7th through 12th grade students from surrounding communities. Landmark Community Theatre is a community theater that offers both adult and youth programs located at the Thomaston Opera House in Thomaston, Connecticut. Warner Theatre is the largest performing arts center in Northwest Connecticut and is located in Torrington, Connecticut.
"It is no coincidence that Checovetes was heavily involved in and directed Teen Theater. This gave him unique access to underage teens whom he groomed and then sexually abused," said the attorney representing the plaintiffs, Jason Tremont, of Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.
"It appeared it was an open secret within the theater community. The culture was such that we believe adult participants knew but chose not to report the abuse. This is the same community that welcomed back a known sex offender."
Checovetes first began having contact and interaction with the victims through their participation and performance in teen and community theater. The assaults took place from 2009 through 2016, at the theaters or performance spaces as well as other locations. At the time, Checovetes, who was in his 30s, worked at the theaters as a director or a lighting designer/technical director and was responsible for supervising the victims. One victim was as young as 14 years old when assaulted.
The lawsuit also alleges that, prior to the abuse of the victims, the theaters were aware that some of their employees were arrested and convicted for possession of child pornography. In 2007, Eugene Edward Bassett Jr. was arrested for child pornography and touching a young child. Bassett was volunteer coordinator and facilities manager at Thomaston Opera House and director at Naugatuck Teen Theater. He was later convicted and sentenced to 18 months and also 20 years probation. In his sentencing, Bassett was prohibited from having unsupervised contact with children. However, since his release in 2010, Bassett has been working at different community theaters throughout Connecticut in a variety of roles including director.
Likewise, in 2012, Rick Doyle, who is listed as a founder of Warner Theatre on its website, and who also worked at Landmark Community Theatre at the Thomaston Opera House, was arrested for child pornography. Doyle pleaded guilty in 2013 and was sentenced to a 5-year prison term. Both Doyle and Bassett are registered sex offenders.
"These community theaters had a duty to supervise their adult agents and employees but, in this case, Checovetes was routinely allowed to spend time alone with the victims on and off theater property where he sexually abused them," said Tim Ramsey, another attorney at Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.
The lawsuits say that the theaters "…failed to properly and adequately investigate and supervise the defendant Checovetes in order to prevent such sexual abuse and sexual exploitation from occurring." As well, the suits say, "It was commonly known among the theater participants as well as the defendants’ agents, servants, and/or employees that the defendant Checovetes had unusual relationships with minor children."
"Their youth was stolen from them at a time when they were most vulnerable, which had devastating effects both physically and mentally," said Jason Tremont.
About the Firm
Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C. represents clients throughout the State of Connecticut in childhood sexual abuse claims. The firm has represented over 200 sexual abuse survivors including those abused by teachers, priests, medical professionals, coaches and counselors. For more information go to https://www.tremontsheldon.com.