Ben Jaquith will face additional criminal charges
The legal travails of Benjamin Jaquith continue after additional criminal charges have been levied against the former Newberg insurance agent.
In a development that became public Jan. 14, Jaquith was the brunt of first- and third-degree attempted sexual abuse charges delivered via an indictment handed down by a Lincoln County grand jury in December.
The charges stem from an incident in January 2015 when Jaquith and some of his employees at American Family Insurance were on a retreat at a rental home in Lincoln City. One of the business' employees, Stephanie Rose Johnson, alleged that Jaquith attempted to grope her while some in the group were in a hot tub.
Johnson, who has filed a civil lawsuit against Jaquith and is one of six women to file criminal complaints against her former boss for alleged acts in Newberg, made a similar claim in Lincoln County last month. She alleged sexual harassment against Jaquith, resulting in his arrest in November by Lincoln City police.
A Lincoln County grand jury returned an indictment in the case, but it was dismissed by a judge as the statute of limitations had lapsed in the case.
Jaquith is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on the latest charges on Feb. 25 in Lincoln County Circuit Court in Newport. He has retained McMinnville attorney Abraham Hanson to represent him. He was taken into custody in late December on a $50,000 security, but posted bail soon after and was released.
The allegations mirror claims in the Yamhill County civil case against Jaquith, filed by Johnson and Social Goods owner Robin Sikkins. She filed a lawsuit in February 2018 claiming battery, assault, negligent infliction of emotional distress and defamation.
The lawsuit seeks upwards of $750,000 in economic and non-economic damages.
Johnson filed her lawsuit against her former employer in November 2017 in Multnomah County. The venue was changed soon after to Yamhill County and the lawsuit seeks economic damages not to exceed $300,000 for back pay, front pay, loss of benefits and future earning capacity, as well as non-economic damages not to exceed $300,000 for mental suffering and emotional distress.
Contained within that lawsuit are allegations stemming from the January 2015 incident in Lincoln City, where she said she resisted numerous unwanted sexual advances by Jaquith. That portion of the lawsuit seeks non-economic damages not to exceed $200,000.
Jaquith appeared before Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Easterday in May for a hearing on the six misdemeanor counts of third-degree sexual assault charges filed against him. He appeared in Yamhill County Circuit Court on Jan. 31 for a trial readiness hearing and his jury trial on the Yamhill County criminal charges is slated for Feb. 11-14.
Other legal battles
Jaquith is also the brunt of a lawsuit filed by Premier Community Bank in Newberg.
The complaint, filed April 23 in Yamhill County Circuit Court, alleges that Jaquith and his wife have defaulted on an $85,000 loan they secured in November 2016 for the operation of a second agency, Jaquith Family Insurance (JFI).
"JFI defaulted under the terms of the loan agreement and subsequent changes in terms agreements by failing to pay the monthly payments as agreed," the breach of contract complaint states. "The last payment on the loan was $500 on January 29, 2018."
The bank is seeking repayment of the balance of the loan, $84,709, late charges of $34, interest accrued as of the filing date, $1,467, plus interest of $15.88 per diem until the loan is paid. A second claim for relief by the bank seeks the same amount in punitive damages as well as attorney fees and other reimbursements.
Defendant files for bankruptcy
Jaquith filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November, seeking protection from his creditors. As part of that filing a stay was placed on the two lawsuits against him until bankruptcy proceedings are concluded in federal court. However, Sikkins' attorney filed a motion saying his client should not be subject to that stay because she is only seeking insurance proceeds in the lawsuit. The judge has yet to rule on Sikkins' motion.
The 38-year-old was discharged from his job as an agent for American Family Insurance soon after the allegations arose in 2018, according to a spokesman for the business.