Sexual Lawsuit against Diocese
By Todd Ruger
October 1, 2004
A Lee County, Iowa, judge has dismissed a sexual abuse lawsuit filed there against the Catholic Diocese of Davenport and a deceased priest due to lack of evidence.
District Judge John Linn granted the diocese’s motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit filed against the Rev. Martin Diamond, the Church of All Saints in Keokuk, Iowa, and the diocese in a ruling filed Wednesday.
“The plaintiff has presented no evidence raising a material question of fact as to whether the defendants knew or should have known of any sexual misconduct or tendencies to abuse children on the part of Father Diamond,” Linn wrote.
Because of that, the court could find no duty to warn the plaintiff, who claimed that Diamond sexually abused him from 1967 to 1970, while he was 8 to 11 years old, the ruling states.
“We’re happy the case has been disposed of as a matter of law,” diocese attorney Rand Wonio said Friday. “One disappointment is we didn’t go into court and exonerate Father Diamond’s good name.”
Wonio said the plaintiff, identified in court documents only as “John Doe,” told medical personnel in the late 1990s that he had been abused by an uncle but did not mention a priest.
“We have more than doubts that (the plaintiff) was ever abused by a Catholic priest,” Wonio added.
“John Doe” suggested the diocese may have destroyed the records of complaints against Diamond or put them in a secret file, but that was too speculative, Linn said.
The attorney for “John Doe,” Roxanne Barton Conlin, said she has not yet talked with her client about whether to appeal the decision.
Conlin called the diocese legal strategy “mean” and described it as similar to the worst possible corporate outlaws.
“I’m accustomed to tough litigation,” said Conlin, a former U.S. attorney and 1982 candidate for Iowa governor. “What doesn’t occur in Iowa is meanness.”
Conlin cited diocese demands that her impoverished client take three days off work, thereby risking his employment, to come to Iowa for a mental health examination.
“I’ve been stunned, and I’ve been at this for 40 years,” she said.
Wonio said the diocese simply asked for what it was entitled to under the law and paid the plaintiff’s expenses for the examination.
Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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