An eighth man has joined a lawsuit alleging that a former YMCA counselor sexually abused him when he was a young boy and that the YMCA failed to stop it.
In February, Lisa Lanier, an attorney whose office is in Jamestown, filed a 20-page lawsuit in Forsyth Superior Court against Michael Todd Pegram, the ex-YMCA counselor; the Kernersville YMCA and its parent organizations — the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina and the YMCA of USA, which is based in Chicago.
The initial lawsuit had seven men as plaintiffs who allege that Pegram sexually assaulted them when they were young boys. An amended complaint adding the eighth man was filed April 23.
Pegram, 48, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to five counts of first-degree sex offense, one count of attempted first-degree sex offense, one count of statutory sex offense with a child and 21 counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.
He was formally charged with sexually assaulting eight boys between 1991 and 2001, according to indictments.
He is currently serving a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
For more than a decade, Pegram lured boys through various jobs — a counselor at the Kernersville Family YMCA, a volunteer firefighter, a hockey coach and a local DJ, according to the lawsuit and Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious, who prosecuted Pegram.
The eighth man, who is now 40 and lives outside of North Carolina, said in the lawsuit that he was 10 when his parents enrolled him in a summer camp program at the Kernersville YMCA. Like the other seven men, he participated in sleepovers and DJ events that Pegram arranged, the lawsuit alleges. Pegram invited the boy over to his house when the boy was 12, showed the boy pornography and then sexually assaulted him, according to the lawsuit.
After the alleged sexual assault, the boy refused to return to the Kernersville YMCA. The lawsuit said that after the sexual assault, the man struggled with substance abuse, had a failed marriage and continues to have nightmares.
Attorneys for the Kernersville YMCA and the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina have not formally responded to the lawsuit but did issue a statement in March.
“We are saddened to hear and learn more about what these victims and their families experienced more than 25 years ago, but we are unable to comment on pending legal matters,” the statement said.
Denise M. Gunther, an attorney representing the YMCA, said Tuesday that she could not comment on the amended complaint.
The lawsuit alleged that Pegram handpicked a group of boys that he deemed to be his favorite and named the group “Todd’s Thunderbirds.”
“It was an honor to be in Defendant Pegram’s counseling group and those in this group were revered as the ‘cool kids,’” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant Pegram used gifts, special privileges and attention to lure these young boys and win their trust.”
The lawsuit said that Bruce Boyer, former executive director of the Kernersville YMCA, and other administrators and employees knew or should have known about Pegram’s inappropriate actions. Pegram had the boys spend the night at the Kernersville YMCA, even though it was against policy.
“Following one of these improper sleepovers, Director Boyer found a photocopy of the buttocks of one of the Plaintiffs on the photocopier and gave it to Defendant Pegram, asking, “Is this what happens at your sleep-overs?”
The lawsuit also alleges that Pegram used the YMCA’s vans to take the boys on trips to the beach, Florida, camping and other places and that he used a media room to show pornography. The lawsuit said many of the sexual assaults happened in Pegram’s office and in the activity room at the Kernersville YMCA. Pegram also used the hot tub and the shower room to assault the boys, according to the lawsuit.
Parents of some of the boys also complained to the YMCA but nothing was done, the lawsuit alleges.
Pegram worked as a counselor and a teen director from March 1988 to March 2002, officials at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina have previously said. Boyer told Kernersville police detectives that Pegram was fired in 2002 after violating YMCA policy. Without prior approval, he took a group of boys to an all-male revue at a local hotel, Chavious said at the June 2019 court hearing.
She said that based on the police investigation, it didn’t appear that YMCA officials were aware that Pegram was sexually assaulting children or that he had groups of young boys over at his house.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs have suffered pain and mental anguish from the alleged abuse, racked up expenses for medical care and treatment and lost income and wages because of the abuse.
A trial for the lawsuit has not yet been set.