'Criminal Minds' Allegedly Had A Serial Sexual Harasser On Its Crew
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The series "Criminal Minds" was a long-running show about FBI agents tracking down fictional perpetrators. Now a state agency alleges that the CBS show for years employed and protected a wrongdoer in its own ranks, a cinematographer accused of multiple instances of sexual groping.
California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a civil rights lawsuit last week against CBS Studios, "Criminal Minds" production companies ABC and the Walt Disney Co., four of the show's executive producers, and cinematographer Gregory St. Johns.
"All people in California have the right to make a living free from sexual harassment," said Kevin Kish, the director of the state's employment and housing department, in a statement released today. "Companies and leaders who protect harassers and retaliate against those who complain violate the law."
The complaint, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, paints a picture not only of "rampant, frequent, and...open" harassment by St. Johns, but also a pattern of retaliation against people who complained about his behavior. The state charged the defendants with sex discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, violation of personal rights, and acts of violence.
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"No necessary steps to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination were taken over the years, nor were appropriate corrective actions," the lawsuit says. "Instead, the executives fired anyone who resisted or who tacitly evaded St. Johns' advances or abuse. The executives fired over a dozen men at St. Johns' request, including an entire electrical crew." Among those who lost their jobs was someone who spoke to Disney investigators about St. John's harassment.
After premiering in 2005, "Criminal Minds," which starred Joe Mategna, became one of CBS's top shows, until it went off the air earlier this year after its final season. According to the state's complaint, St. Johns worked as cinematographer on the series from 2006-18. His film credits as a second unit camera operator include "Breakdown" and "Dante's Peak."
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, describes in often unsettling detail how St. Johns would grope men on the set, including touching their genitals. The year-long investigation was launched after a former "Criminal Minds" technician said he was fired after complaining about being slapped by St. Johns.
"In plain view of everyone on set, St. Johns also doted on certain men and treated them more favorably, provided they acquiesced to his attention," the complaint said. "To those who resisted or complained, St. Johns responded with retaliation, including but not limited to, the silent treatment, social ostracism, unfair criticism, public shaming, and termination."
The Fair Housing and Employment office also said that complaints about St. John's behavior, which went back to 2017, went unheeded by the show's producers and that an internal Disney Employee Relations investigation was "inadequate and biased" and "designed to exonerate St. Johns and hide the misconduct."
"A dozen crew members corroborated that St. Johns engaged in frequent and open sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation," the lawsuit said. Yet, Disney "concluded otherwise, and as such, did not meaningfully discipline or terminate St. Johns." He only lost his job when Variety reported about his behavior in October 2018, but nevertheless St. Johns was given what the lawsuit calls an "enhanced severance."
When asked for comment, an ABC Studios spokesperson replied:
"The Company works hard to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. In this instance the Company took corrective action. We cooperated with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing during its investigation, and we regret that we were unable to reach a reasonable resolution with the Department. We now intend to defend the asserted claims vigorously."
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