Attorneys for plaintiffs who sued former Children’s Theatre Company actor Jason McLean for sexual assault are hoping to collect more than $8 million from him, now that he’s returned to the United States after fleeing to Mexico in 2017.
More than $6 million in judgments already have been filed against McLean, 65. But the attorneys, noting that McLean never appeared in court to defend himself or cooperate with court orders, will go before a Hennepin County district judge on Wednesday to request an additional $2.5 million default judgment in the case of a Jane Doe.
The woman, who requested anonymity to protect her privacy, said Friday that she’s seeking the judgment now that McLean has resurfaced in the U.S. But even if a judge grants the order, she doesn’t expect to see the money from McLean, who she said likely has no assets or has hidden what he has.
The court action is “completely symbolic — and if he ever does have access [to money], it’s to hobble him,” she said. “I want to put pressure on him.”
McLean, who was never criminally charged, fled to Mexico in 2017 in the wake of allegations of sexually abusing children at the south Minneapolis theater in the 1980s.
He moved back last month to California, where he owns a restaurant and bar called Small Wonder. Former employees of the bar said he fired the staff and took over the restaurant, with plans to reopen it.
Efforts to reach McLean on Friday were unsuccessful: A phone number was disconnected, an e-mail bounced back and there was no response to a letter mailed to him.
But last month, he told the Oakland-based Bay City News Service in a statement that the “cost of defense against these unwarranted claims, mostly tried by damaging publicity in the media, destroyed my enterprises in Minnesota and forced me into default.”
Attorneys also filed an affidavit on Oct. 25 in plaintiff Laura Stearns’ case related to a $3.68 million judgment that a jury handed down against McLean last February, which started the process of trying to collect money from him in California.
“We’re doing everything we can to collect,” attorney Molly Burke said Friday.
Attorneys will have to transfer the judgments to California courts and then go through the collection process to find assets that don’t have liens or mortgages.
Burke confirmed that an elaborate seaside mansion in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, recently listed on Airbnb is owned by McLean. The 8,000-square-foot house, dubbed “Villa Viva,” has eight bedrooms, three pools and a home theater in a gated community, and was first listed for sale on Sept. 26 for $2.9 million. It was listed on Airbnb for $1,550 a night and booked throughout this month, December and into 2020, but the posting was taken down after the Star Tribune inquired with Airbnb about the mansion.
Airbnb does background checks of its hosts to look for felony convictions or sex offender registrations. But McLean, who was also a teacher at the Children’s Theatre, was never convicted of any crimes in the cases.
Since 2015, 16 plaintiffs sued the Children’s Theatre and/or former staff members over the sexual abuse of girls and boys who studied and performed at the theater in the 1970s and ’80s. Another suit alleging sexual abuse by McLean didn’t name the theater as a defendant.
Other lawsuits name theater co-founder John Clark Donahue, who died earlier this year. He pleaded guilty in the 1980s to molesting three boys and admitted to abusing and raping others.
Stearns’ case has been the only one to go to trial. Along with the judgment against McLean, the jury found that the Children’s Theatre had been negligent but wasn’t liable for damages. Stearns filed a notice to appeal her case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but withdrew it Nov. 1 after reaching an undisclosed settlement with the theater.
Stearns, survivor Jina Penn-Tracy, Children’s Theatre managing director Kimberly Motes and their attorneys announced last week that all of the cases against the theater had been settled for undisclosed amounts. Children’s Theatre leaders said that abuse survivors will be added to the nonprofit’s board, and that the theater will donate $500,000 to seed a fund to help survivors.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141