Sexual Misconduct

Arizona Republic Lacked Safeguards, Says Ex-Employee Convicted of Molestation

Erasmus Baxter
A May 7, 1980, Phoenix New Times article detailed the case.
The Arizona Republic should have done more to regulate contact between paperboys and their adult bosses, says a former employee who in 1980 admitted to molesting 10 paperboys.

The man, James Allen Robertson, is named in a lawsuit filed by a former paperboy who alleges in a court filing that he was abused by Robertson before he began high school in the 1970s. The lawsuit, filed last week in Maricopa County Superior Court, also alleges that members of the Phoenix Newspapers, Inc, circulation department either turned a blind eye to or abetted the abuse by Robertson and his boss, Robert John Bresee.

Back then, the Pulliam family owned and published the Arizona Republic and now-defunct Phoenix Gazette under the company name Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. That's still the business name for the Republic, but the paper has been owned by Gannett since 2000.

The two were convicted of molesting boys under their supervision in 1980. During court proceedings, Robertson testified that they were members of a child abuse ring known as "The Group."

After Phoenix New Times visited Robertson's apartment Tuesday afternoon seeking comment on the lawsuit, Robertson called New Times to discuss the case.

Robertson said he did not remember Gregory Brown, the plaintiff in the case, but he doesn't contest Brown's description of the event.

"Even though I don’t remember his name I don’t dispute the possibility because I was in a different frame of mind," he said. “I don’t dispute that I did crimes similar.”

Robertson said he had no hard evidence that anyone besides his direct boss Bresee knew about their crimes, although he had his suspicions from the way members of management interacted with them. He said he thought the company had opened itself up to liability by not better regulating the interactions between the youths employed to deliver papers and the adults supervising them.

"I can tell you that the way we were allowed to do things like take the carriers camping, take them to other states, stay in motel rooms... Their motel rooms were separate with the boys in them, but I had access to them. I could have them over to my house. Kind of a wide open..." he said trailing off. "Back in the day when this horrible stuff wasn’t coming out."

In testimony reported by New Times in 1980, Robertson said they targeted low-income paperboys with single mothers for abuse: grooming them with trips meant for high-achieving paperboys, showing them pornographic images, and coercing them financially.

“I know working for the paper gave me a certain amount of power that was helpful in grooming,” he said today.

Brown, the man filing the lawsuit, alleges in it that Robertson molested him repeatedly after taking revealing photos of him. After he was fired at 13 he soon started drinking and using drugs, struggling with addiction for more than 27 years.

“It just hit me really emotionally," Brown told New Times. "My school went to hell, I started using drugs and alcohol. I had all types of problems. I’ve never been able to get married and have kids… There are just a lot of things that have affected me in a lot of ways.”

John Charland, Brown's attorney said Robertson's comments are consistent with what they alleged.

“I think it’s definitely helpful because he understood he wasn’t being properly supervised,” Charland said.

Gannett did not respond to a request for comment.

Robertson told New Times that he's happy to testify if it helps someone he's harmed. He says he's haunted by what he did. He was also molested, he said — by an uncle, when he was 12

After finishing a seven-year prison sentence for the case involving paperboys, Robertson was sent back to prison for re-offending and molesting a 17-year-old. This time, Robertson received sex offender treatment classes.

While he still has "thoughts," he says he hasn't molested a child since he left prison the second time over 20 years ago. He attributes his restraint to following the rule of never being alone with or in a position of control over a child.

“There is no amount of payback that I can possibly give that person other than saying I'm sorry. I am gut-wrenchingly sorry and I understand that he felt this abuse probably throughout his whole life and I take responsibility for that. I don’t remember his name but that doesn't say he isn't one of the boys I molested,” he said.

A Phoenix police spokesperson said this afternoon that an investigation into Brown's allegations is active.