Sex abuse allegation surfaced during bitter copyright dispute


BACKGROUND: An allegation that Dana’s brother John Brown sexually abused his niece was aired in an Iowa court in 2008

IN JUNE 2008 in a courtroom in Davenport, Iowa, dentist Ronald Stein was giving evidence in a case that involved a dispute over the copyright to religious music recorded by his sister-in-law, Dana.

When he was asked about the circumstances surrounding an e-mail he sent to Dana’s brother, John Brown, in April 2005, a lawyer acting for Dana and her husband, Damien Scallon, asked could he approach the bench.

Brown had been involved with the US company, Heart Beat LLC, which had made the Dana recordings, and Stein’s e-mail to Brown included the sentence: “You know why you resigned from any relationship with Heart Beat”.

The court went into closed session for a number of minutes while the lawyers discussed the issue that had arisen. The Scallons’ lawyer said there had been an allegation that Brown had sexually abused the Steins’ daughter back in the 1980s. He said the allegation was not relevent to the case and that no action had been taken at the time in terms of litigation.

However, the Steins’ lawyer wanted the evidence heard, and said it went to the credibility of Brown, who had given evidence on deposition that his parting with Heart Beat had been for business reasons and had denied that it had anything to do with allegations of sex abuse.

The Scallons’ lawyer then said that Brown had in fact agreed that the allegation had been made at about the time of his split with the company. What had been denied was the abuse.

He also said that if the evidence was heard, he might have to question Stein’s wife, Dana’s sister Susan Stein, about whether she had known for some considerable time about the abuse, but had still worked with Brown on the Heart Beat business.

The judge allowed the evidence be heard, in part on the basis that everyone seemed to know about the allegation anyway.

When Stein returned to the witness box he said the following: “In January of 2005 John Brown called me at home and apologised for abusing my daughter for over a period of 12 years.

“He said he was sorry, he knew that God had forgiven him, and he would like to ask me for my forgiveness.

“I told him that this was a shock to me, I just learned this, and that – that I would have to think about it and then he asked well, what about Heart Beat, and I said you’re finished with Heart Beat, you will have nothing to do with Heart Beat, you will have nothing to do with my family.”

Stein was then asked about another sentence from his e-mail to Brown which read: “As [the] knowledge of what happened had just become known to me within the last few weeks, I’m trying to handle the hurt and anger the best way I can.” He told the court that this was a reference to the sex abuse issue.

He also said that following the January 2005 conversation, Brown had resigned his position with Heart Beat.

While Dana was not asked during the trial about the sex abuse allegation, she did appear to refer to it in an e-mail she sent to her sister Susan Stein in August 2005. The Iowa judge quoted the e-mail in full in his judgment.

Referring to Heart Beat, which had been a joint Scallon/Brown/Stein endeavour, Dana wrote: “I know that the terrible manner in which John was forced from the company was nothing other than a business move to secure ownership. Is anything worth it?”

The transcripts of the Iowa trial are available online and while some aspects of what was said during the hearings were published last week, the sex abuse allegation was not put into the public domain.

Then on RTÉ’s Prime TimeDana read a prepared statement that read in part: “It has come to my attention that yet further allegations, this time of a most untrue and malicious, vile nature have been levelled against a member of my family.”

She also said she assured the Irish people that she would “leave no stone unturned to expose the malicious intent at the heart of these untrue allegations”.

Most people did not know what she was referring to. Yesterday on TV3 she referred to “malicious and untrue allegations” that had first surfaced during a family court case. “It now conveniently surfaces again during my presidential campaign.”

Dana also said she was sure the allegation was false. Her view appears to be based on the fact that no action was taken over the 30 years since the allegation first surfaced.