Community expelled mentor over separate misconduct allegations in 2004
By Mitchell Byars Staff Writer
Posted: 02/01/2019 10:00:10 AM MST
A former teacher at Boulder’s Shambhala Center has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl he was mentoring through the program, and investigators say the Buddhist community was aware of other allegations of inappropriate conduct against the teacher when it expelled him back in 2004.
William Lloyd Karelis, 71, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, according to a release from the Boulder Police Department.
Shambhala’s interim board issued a statement on the arrest Friday.
“William Karelis was a member of the Shambhala community from its early days. In response to inquiries from the Boulder Police Department, Shambhala confirmed that Mr. Karelis was the subject of two Care and Conduct complaint procedures in 2002 and 2008. These were initiated by women who alleged that he had behaved inappropriately towards them. Due to his failure to comply with Shambhala’s Care and Conduct procedure, Mr. Karelis’s teaching and meditation instructor credentials were suspended in 2004 and later permanently revoked in 2008. Owing to procedural disputes between Mr. Karelis and Shambhala’s Care and Conduct officers in both cases, neither resulted in an agreed resolution.Advertisement
“Mr. Karelis resigned from the organization in 2009. None of the complaints received by Shambhala involved minors or reports of criminal behavior. Shambhala has always and will continue to comply with mandated reporting concerning minors. We also have and will continue to cooperate with and fully support the ongoing BPD investigation.”
According to an affidavit, Karelis met the girl in the 1990s when she was around 8 through Shambhala, when Karelis was assigned to her as her meditation instructor.
The girl, who was living in Denver at the time, spent time getting to know Karelis and told police that she spent a lot of time in the first few years spending a lot of one-on-one meditation time with him.
According to the affidavit, things began to escalate in 2000 when the girl was around 13, and she began taking the bus with her parents’ permission to spend weekends at Karelis’ Boulder house for teachings.
The girl would sleep in a downstairs room at Karelis’ home, but told police Karelis would come into her room after his wife fell asleep and would perform oral sex on her.
The girl told police this happened 10 times over about 18 months.
According to the affidavit, sometime around December 2003 several women accused Karelis at a public event of inappropriate sexual behavior.
Karelis was expelled from the community following the accusations, and Shambhala “set up a council of people that were responsible for keeping in contact with (Karelis) as well as working with people in the community to heal the wounds from this event.”
The named victim in the Boulder case said she did not tell her mother about Karelis’ behavior, but she was still sent to therapy anyway as a result of the allegations from other women.
According to the affidavit, the girl told her counselor about some but not all of the behavior, and the therapist said she was obligated to report it.
The girl said she never knew what became of that report if it was filed, but did say it was one of the reasons she never reported the incident to police.
Investigators did not become aware of the case until August 2018, when the named victim told a friend about the incident and the friend reported it to Boulder police.
Boulder police believe there were more victims over the span of 30 years. Anyone who believes they or someone they know was victimized by Karelis in the past is asked to call Boulder Police Detective Ross Richart at 303-441-1833 or Detective Heather Frey at 303-441-3369.
Officials with the Shambhala Center have not yet returned requests for comment on this story.
The Denver Post reported in December the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office was investigating ” possible criminal activity” at the Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat in the foothills west of Fort Collins.
But Boulder police spokeswoman Laurie Ogden said Boulder police have reached out to Larimer County because Karelis spent time at the center, but at this time police do not have any formal complaints about him in that jurisdiction.
Karelis is in custody at the Boulder County Jail and is scheduled for a first appearance this afternoon.
There is no statute of limitations on sex offenses involving children under the age of 15.
The news comes on the heels of a sexual misconduct scandal surrounding Shambhala International’s leader, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
The allegations surfaced in a three-part report called the Buddhist Sunshine Project that detailed allegations from anonymous women with first- and secondhand accounts of sexual misconduct by Mipham and other high-ranking Shambhala officials.
Mipham said in a statement he would step back form his leadership position over Shambhala International — now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia — pending an investigation. He conceded in a letter to his followers that past relationships he engaged in had caused “harm,” but did not address the broader allegations of misconduct or any illegal activity.