The former owner of a thrift store in Kennewick has lost a civil suit that will cost him $1.5 million dollars.  Thelbert "Thad" Lawson Jr. is the CEO of Operation Veterans Assistance & Humanitarian Aid’s (OVAHA).  The company operated the Veterans Warehouse Thrift Store in Wenatchee and the Veterans Thrift Store in Kennewick.

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Google Street Maps
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The Kennewick store was at 908 N Colorado St., at the site of the old Sports Authority.  It didn't last long.  It opened in April of 2021 and closed roughly a year-and-a-half later after Lawson was evicted from the building by the owners.

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The 58-year-old Desert Storm Veteran has had his share of troubles, and they bled over into the non-profit, OVAHA.  The Warehouse Thrift Store in Wenatchee shut down last year due to a failure to pay taxes.  It was during that time on 2023 when Lawson was arrested for assaulting a woman in the Wenatchee shop.  He was convicted of fourth degree assault, for groping the woman, and sentenced to 75 days of work release.

Thad Lawson Facebook/Canva
Thad Lawson Facebook/Canva
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This wasn't the first time Lawson had allegations of impropriety levelled against him by women.  He was also convicted in 2012 on the same charge after asking two teenage girls that worked for him to expose themselves.  In 2022, the State Attorney General's office filed a sexual harassment and discrimination civil suit against Lawson's non-profit, OVAHA, on behalf of 12 women that either worked for, or shopped in his stores.

A jury found Lawson liable for pervasive and ongoing sexual harassment of 12 women and they ordered the defendants (Lawson and OVAHA) to pay nearly $1.5 million to the victims of the harassment as a result of the lawsuit.  They found the acts occurred at both locations operated by the non-profit.  The jury also awarded $17,267.50 in back wages to workers.

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Canva
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In their the decision the jury:

Lawson harassed seven thrift store employees, subjecting them to offensive and unwanted touching and regularly commenting on and asking questions about employees’ sex lives. He made inappropriate requests, including asking employees how often they have sex, whether they use sex toys, requesting sexual favors, and asking employees to expose their bodies to him.

AG Bob Ferguson also plans to file a post-trial motion asking the court to prevent Lawson from being in a position to supervise or harass women again in the future, and to award the state its costs and fees resulting from the lawsuit.

Sexual Violence in Washington State

Sexual violence and sexual assault are, sadly, types of crime we may never see disappear from society. With the stigma and shame surrounding victims, it's important to be aware of what the statistics are in our community. Let's look at the official statistics for sexual violence in Washington state.

Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton

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