A North Carolina man charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Blount County was named as a defendant in a civil action suit in August alongside First Apostolic Church of Maryville. According to the suit, a Blount County family alleges the church knew or should have known Joseph Kade Abbott, 26, was unsafe to work with children and are asking for $4.5 million in compensation.
The plaintiffs allege that Abbott sexually assaulted their child on multiple occasions in 2022 while working for Apostolic Christian Academy — a school owned and operated by First Apostolic Church.
“First Apostolic exhibited an extreme degree of negligence in the supervision of staff and students and in the operation and running of the facility, which led to the endangerment of children there,” the suit reads.
The suit, which was filed Aug. 22 in Blount County Circuit Court, claims First Apostolic failed to properly train or oversee Abbott’s actions and says the church was negligent in its hiring process. It also says the defendants violated numerous Tennessee codes regarding sexual exploitation and reporting suspected child abuse.
First Apostolic, the suit claims, was negligent “in its failure to implement or enforce policies and procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in its care and to prevent sexual abuse upon those children.”
Investigators with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for Abbott’s arrest Jan. 6 after an investigation into allegations that he had committed sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested in North Carolina on Jan. 9 before being transported to the Blount County Correctional facility, where he was charged with sexual battery by an authority figure. BCSO Public Information Officer Marian O’Briant confirmed he was released on a $200,000 bond the next day.
First Apostolic’s lawyer, Alyssa Minge, said she had advised her clients not to comment on pending litigation and declined to comment on when Abbott’s employment with the school ended. She provided a prepared statement on the matter.
“Joseph Abbott is no longer employed by Apostolic Christian Academy,” the statement reads. “We cannot comment on matters involving pending litigation. Our prayers are with everyone involved.”
An Internet Archive capture of the Apostolic Christian Academy website lists Abbott as a middle school teacher on Aug. 13, 2022. He is no longer listed in the next capture on Dec. 1.
The plaintiffs are asking for total damages of $1.5 million for themselves and $3 million for their child. Abbott is scheduled to appear in a 9 a.m. Jan. 27 hearing in Blount County General Sessions Court.