Daniel Barker and Ian Richardson on Moriah’s Story of Child Sexual Abuse and the Long Road to Justice

Written by Bob Friedman
Photography by John Hansen

Twenty-year-old Moriah Taylor flew into RDU from her home in Austin, Texas in 2019, clutching a list of attorneys she hoped would take her case. Unfortunately, after the first five turned her down, there was no reason to believe Daniel Barker or Ian Richardson would give her a different answer when she said she wanted to sue her parents.

Barker and Richardson’s personal injury practice focused on car wrecks and slip and fall injuries. Their office on busy McDowell Street in downtown Raleigh, near the former News & Observer building, was in a small brick structure that looked like a bunker tucked in among an abandoned car repair shop and crumbling parking lots. They hardly seemed like the obvious choice to take Moriah’s case. But as it happened, they were already looking into another potential child sexual abuse lawsuit.

Moriah met with the two attorneys for five hours recounting how her father had sexually abused her for nearly 10 years while her mother looked the other way. As a result, she was being treated for emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder. She wanted to sue her parents for causing her severe emotional distress.

Moriah at age 8 (Courtesy of Moriah Taylor)
Moriah Taylor

When the lawyers just listened to my story and then laid out all the options, it was definitely a huge step toward healing.

“When the lawyers just listened to my story and then laid out all the options, it was definitely a huge step toward healing,” said Moriah.

“That first five-hour session with Moriah was physically and emotionally exhausting for me,” recalled Barker. “I thought there is no way she’s not telling the truth.”

When I interviewed Moriah, now 23, and her two attorneys last fall, she was remarkably composed. She occasionally reached over to hold hands with her boyfriend, Adam, whom she called her support person.

Barker and Richardson marveled at how far she had come since their first meeting. “I don’t think anyone ever completely heals from sexual abuse, but Moriah has made great strides through counseling and through telling her story,” said Richardson. “I believe actively participating in achieving a litigant’s sense of justice is important for the client in any civil litigation, but it is especially vital in cases advocating for the interests of sexual abuse victims.”

‘I Trusted Him’

Daniel Barker

That first five-hour session with Moriah was physically and emotionally exhausting for me.

When her abuse began, Moriah was living in tiny Pflugerville, Texas, with her six brothers and sisters. She is the oldest of the girls. Her father, David, was in the computer industry, and her mother, Toby, home-schooled the kids. The family moved to the Raleigh area in January 2013.

Inexplicably, her father started teaching Moriah how to kiss when she was 8. “I didn’t understand what was going on,” Moriah said. “I knew it made me feel uncomfortable. I knew it felt wrong, but I didn’t know why. I had no sex education outside of my parents. You’re supposed to be able to trust your parents, so I trusted him.”

Her father forced her to perform and receive oral sex, “more times than I could count,” she recalled. “I felt disgust, anger, shame, and hurt.”

After the first time, Moriah said she washed out her mouth with mouthwash for an hour.

“David started treating me differently than my siblings and touching me and grooming me to become some kind of second wife,” recalled Moriah, pointedly calling her father by his first name. “He had always said he wanted to prepare me for my husband because that’s part of the religious aspect. He said it was just his way of showing that he loved me.”

No Justice, No Support

“I believe victims are often hesitant to come forward to report abuse for two main reasons. First, they feel like the abuse is somehow their own fault, and secondly, many survivors have a fear that their allegations won’t be believed, and that the system won’t work to hold the perpetrator to account,” said Barker.

“I feel that by litigating child sexual abuse cases, we bring about training and awareness,” added Richardson.

Moriah Taylor was sexually abused during her adolescent years when most kids were trying to figure out who they were and where they fit in the world. She had no one to turn to for support, not even her mother. Being home-schooled, her only social interactions were with her siblings and people at her church.

At the age 14, Moriah attended a church camp. “One of the classes they taught was the law of chastity. I remember thinking it was very odd, everything they were saying, and the first person who came to mind was my father,” she recalled.

Moriah was 17 when she disclosed to her bishop about five incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior by her father. The bishop called Moriah’s mother and met with both her parents. David Taylor was given the opportunity by the bishop to self-report his actions to authorities, but he failed to do so. Ultimately, the bishop reported the incidents to authorities, after which David carefully crafted a written confession to the five incidents. Barker and Richardson believe Moriah’s mother coerced her into not mentioning any other abuse to investigators because David was the family’s meal ticket, and they needed to keep him out of jail.

In 2015, David Taylor was arrested and charged with one felony count of indecent liberties with a minor and three misdemeanor counts of attempted sexual battery. In a plea arrangement, he pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of attempted sexual battery. He was required to complete a sex offender control program class, register as a sex offender, and was placed on supervised probation for 60 months. David Taylor didn’t spend a single day in jail on the underlying charges. At his three-year probation review, after moving to another county, his probation was terminated early on December 7, 2018, despite his willfully violating his probation in 2017.

After David was arrested in 2015, Moriah moved back to Texas.

“I moved in with a family I hadn’t ever met,” Moriah said. “I knew their kid from the short four months I was in high school before we moved to NC and we kept in touch over the years. But I’d never met their parents. They were kind enough to just open their home to a complete stranger.”

When Moriah heard about the plea deal, she was livid. She collected a list of Triangle attorneys and caught a flight back to Raleigh.

Fear, Pain and Betrayal

“It can be difficult to be a victim of these crimes and find assistance,” said Moriah. “The criminal justice system is harrowing for a victim who has no idea if they will be okay. Now we’re going to do a civil thing. There’s a whole new process. I think that there are victims of child sexual abuse who know that they’re never going to be able to sit on a witness stand.”

“Breaking the silence is absolutely mentally, physically and emotionally draining,” she added. “It’s terrifying and so difficult. However, so is surviving in silence. I realized that trying to push forward, move past the trauma on my own, and staying silent to avoid conflict was still actively hurting me. More than that, it was helping him. Fuck that. If you don’t advocate for yourself and surround yourself with people who love you enough to do it when you can’t, then nothing changes.”

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “a young child who knows and cares for the abuser becomes trapped between affection or loyalty for the person and the fear, pain, and betrayal that goes along with the sexual abuse.”

“Very few victims are willing to take the next step as Moriah did and hire a civil lawyer. It’s a long road to justice,” said Barker.

Ian Richardson

I don’t think anyone ever completely heals from sexual abuse, but Moriah has made great strides through counseling and through telling her story.

For Moriah and her two attorneys, it was never about money.

“I would like him to actually be held accountable for what he did to me,” said Moriah. “I figured if David did it to my sisters, he would go to jail. So even if they’re not going to talk to me ever again, I would rather have that than them having to experience what I went through.”

Barker and Richardson said they are energized to use litigation to help end child sexual abuse. “I think one of the ways we do that is if trial lawyers get enough big verdicts against institutions and individuals, it will become clear that if you do this, you’re going to lose everything. The goal is that we never get another child sexual abuse call,” said Barker.

High-profile child sexual abuse cases like the ones involving USA Gymnastics and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts are changing the calculus. “Victims of sexual abuse already live in a world where they’re afraid they won’t be believed. They need to know that the world is different. They’re going to get a better shot at telling their story in 2022 than they would have had in 2016 or 2010,” said Barker. “We tell clients we need to be armed to go all the way to the end. We’re not afraid to do that.”

Personal injury attorneys can be reluctant to take child sexual abuse cases when the perpetrator is a family member because there may be little or no money to recover. However, most child sexual abuse incidents involve organizations that run programs for kids and typically have sizeable insurance policies.

“Insurance companies don’t believe car wreck folks, but they are downright evil toward people who bring sexual abuse claims,” said Richardson. “They know that a lot of these folks (survivors) are in fragile mental states. So, they will ask questions that you shouldn’t ask under any set of circumstances. It’s designed to bring doubt into the mind of a person who’s bringing the claim. It’s a mental war. It’s the meanest thing that I’ve experienced in all my years practicing law.”

‘That Was Amazing’

Moriah’s suit against her parents went to trial in August 2021. It was an emotionally charged three days. David Taylor represented himself and cross-examined both Moriah and her mother, his co-defendant Toby Taylor.

Richardson urged the jury to consider actual damages of over $1 million based on the 15 years Moriah had already suffered, plus counseling and medication costs for the duration of her lifetime. “Moriah didn’t want to be sexually abused. She doesn’t want to be in this courtroom right now,” Richardson told the jury. “You’re the conscience of our collective community, and it’s time for justice to be done in this situation.”

On August 19, 2021, a Wake County jury awarded Moriah Taylor $3,410,800 which represented both a compensatory and punitive award. The jury found the abuser, David Taylor, liable and found Moriah’s mother, Toby Taylor, liable for negligence.

“When they finally gave the verdict, I just started crying,” recalled Moriah. “That was phenomenal to hear the jury say that this is absolutely messed up. This should not have happened, and it should not have been dealt with the way it was. Somebody was holding him accountable. That was amazing for me.”

On August 28, 2021, David and Toby Taylor filed for bankruptcy. The case is pending.

“I am immensely grateful to everyone who advocated for me, especially when I was hesitant to do so for myself,” said Moriah. “I found strength, peace, and unconditional love when I thought I never could. It’s one of the hardest things you can ever do for yourself, but immensely worth the effort to thrive instead of just survive.”