| SAN BERNARDINO
CA – EDWARD L. BALL (6/30/03)
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By Kristine Lazar
The local Catholic diocese must pay more than 2 million dollars to two former altar boys, who say they were sexually abused thousands of times by a priest. This is the largest abuse settlement in the diocese's history.
This settlement brings an end to a 6-year long lawsuit, but the victim's attorney says this may only be the beginning of sexual abuse lawsuits against the local diocese.
The settlement was awarded to two brothers, known only as David T. and Troy T. They allege that Father Edward Ball repeatedly abused them while he was a priest here, at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino in the early 1980's.
Ball plead no contest to criminal charges back in 1999, and served three years in prison. The victim's attorney says he went after the San Bernardino diocese, because he believes the diocese knew about the abuse while it was taking place. The diocese, however, denies it.
The total settlement was 4.2 million dollars, but half of it will be paid by an Illinois religious order, which ordained Father Ball, the other half by the diocese. Though Father Ball has served his prison sentence, he remains in jail, awaiting a mental evaluation.
By Chris T. Nguyen
Two San Bernardino County brothers molested by the Rev. Edward Lawrence Ball about 20 years ago will receive $4.2 million from the Diocese of San Bernardino and an Illinois religious order in one of the nation's largest settlements against a Catholic priest.
The settlement, announced Monday, ends a six-year civil lawsuit in which the brothers, identified as David T. and Troy T., claim they were sexually abused thousands of times when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino. In 1999, Ball pleaded no contest to criminal charges related to the assaults.
"They've been through a lot. It was a horrible experience,' the brothers' attorney, William Light of Riverside, said on Monday. "As far as the litigation, it was hard for them but they wouldn't trade it for the world. And they know it sends a message to victims of molestation ... that there are people who will fight for them.'
"It seems the only way to make people stop is to make them pay for it,' Light added. "When it actually costs them something, then they start caring.'
The tentative agreement, which will be finalized next week, requires the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Aurora, Ill., each to pay $2.1 million. Sacred Heart is the religious order that ordained Ball, now in his mid-60s.
Diocese Spokesman the Rev. Howard Lincoln said the money will be paid by the diocese's insurance carrier, Catholic Mutual.
Asked if the diocese knew about the allegations against Ball and if it accepts responsibility for his actions, Lincoln said, "We had no notice or knowledge whatsoever of these allegations.'
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart had no clue of Ball's conduct, its attorney, Raymond Dolen of San Bernardino, said.
"Father Ball was trying to hide his activities, hide them from the order, hide them from everybody,' Dolen said Monday.
He said the order's priests feel betrayed.
"They were shocked because he seemed to have good character,' Dolen said. "They felt betrayed. He betrayed a lot of people ... the people who trusted and worked with him.'
Ball, ordained by Sacred Heart in 1966, is an admitted pedophile with a criminal history of molesting young boys. The abuse took place during the tenure of former Bishop Philip Straling, now bishop of the Diocese of Reno.
In 1992, Ball pleaded guilty to molesting three boys in the 1970s, two of whom were altar boys at Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Bernardino, where he was priest. After serving nine months in county jail, Ball returned to Aurora, Ill., to stay with his religious order.
In 1997, David T. and Troy T. sued Ball for sexual abuse they experienced from about 1979 to 1986 when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in San Bernardino. David T. was 10 then, and Troy was 7. They are now in their early 30s.
In 1999, the District Attorney's Office charged Ball with 31 felony counts, including forcible lewd acts upon a child, attempted oral copulation and attempted sodomy involving the two brothers. Ball pleaded no contest and is serving a three-year prison term.
According to Light, the brothers were sexually molested by Ball thousands of times. Ball took the brothers with him on vacations to numerous states, Light said.
"Nobody did or said anything about it,' Light said.
He said the brothers, both of whom are now married and have children, bottled up the experience for so long because of shame. Neither brother, he said, knew the other was being molested because Ball abused them separately.
The brothers' civil lawsuit is also against Ball, who has not settled his portion. Light said he's going to "proceed against him' but doubts whether a financial settlement would be reached.
"It's not right for him to walk away from this without having (at least) a judgment against him,' Light said.
The diocese's portion of the $4.2 million settlement $2.1 million is the largest it's paid in any molestation case involving priests. Since 1978, the diocese has paid out about $675,000, Lincoln said.
The $4.2 million settlement is one of the nation's largest. In August 2001, the Orange County Diocese and Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled with a victim of sexual abuse, Ryan DiMaria, for $5.2 million.
"When a diocese hands over a multimillion dollar check, that diocese is acknowledging, 'We know about that pedophile priest,' and we're asking for accountability,' Irvine attorney Katharine Freberg, who represented DiMaria, said on Monday.
"That is important. Victims want accountability. It's not about
the money. The money doesn't magically heal the victim. But it is more
of the acknowledgment by the church that it did not protect that child.'
By Lance Pugmire
The conviction of a priest who molested two altar boys will probably be overturned because of a recent Supreme Court ruling, but Roman Catholic Church officials in San Bernardino said Tuesday they will pay a $4.2-million settlement to the victims so the church can close the case with a "fair and just resolution."
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. John Kochis said Edward Ball's three-year prison sentence, which he received in 2001 after admitting he sexually abused the brothers in the 1970s and early 1980s, probably will be vacated because of last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a California law permitting the prosecution of decades-old molestation offenses.
Despite the ruling, the Diocese of San Bernardino thought the two abuse victims had a very strong civil case against the church because Ball had confessed to molesting the boys. Bishop Gerald Barnes also openly supports offering just and fair resolutions when a molestation case against a priest has merit, said Diocese spokesman Howard Lincoln.
"The Supreme Court decision did not weigh into this," Lincoln said. "[Ball] was already in jail after pleading guilty to these crimes. We wanted a fair and just resolution. This case is unique with very unfortunate circumstances."
The diocese has agreed to pay the two brothers $2.1 million, and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the religious organization Ball belonged to while serving as a priest in San Bernardino, will also pay $2.1 million, Lincoln said.
Lincoln said the diocese agreed to the settlement — the most ever paid by the diocese for a sexual abuse case — because of the severity of the molestation.
Ball, 64, is jailed in Rancho Cucamonga while he awaits a July 11 hearing to decide whether he will be designated a sexually violent predator, which would mean he would be put into a state mental hospital following his prison release.
Kochis said Tuesday he is still trying to determine if Ball can be classified as a predator — and kept in custody — even if his current criminal case is vacated.
"There's no case law on this, so it's premature for me to render an opinion about a potential ruling on this," Kochis said.
In 1992, Ball pleaded guilty to fondling three boys at Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Bernardino between 1990 and 1992 and served nine months in jail. Two years ago, he pleaded no contest to 31 counts of child molestation for sexually abusing the two altar boys at Our Lady of Assumption Church in San Bernardino.
Last week's Supreme Court ruling overturned a portion of a California law that allowed the prosecution of certain sexual-offense cases even if the statute of limitations had expired, as long as district attorneys filed the charges within a year after the sexual abuse allegations were first reported.
The ruling affects about 800 cases statewide, including those of people convicted or who have charges pending against them. About 200 cases are in Los Angeles County.The high court's decision will lead to the formal dismissal of charges against Msgr. Peter Luque, an Inland Empire Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting two teenage boys in the 1960s, Kochis said. It also will halt a criminal investigation into a retired San Bernardino priest, Patrick O'Keeffe, who avoided criminal prosecution of an alleged 1972 molestation by moving to Ireland, he said.
Luque, 68, who has served parishes in Colton, San Bernardino, Riverside and Corona, was charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in 1966 in San Bernardino and faced 10 additional charges of molesting a teenage boy in 1967 and 1969 in Colton. The priest resigned in March as pastor of the 6,700-family St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona.
Luque will have his charges dismissed in a July 9 court hearing, said his attorney, Steven Harmon. "The Supreme Court decision is a return to sanity and fairness," Harmon said. "In many of these older cases, witnesses have died, memories have faded, evidence has been lost. It is extremely unfair to proceed with prosecutions. That's why the statute of limitations is rooted in our law."
The sister of one of the boys Luque was accused of molesting said she and her brother are devastated by the dismissal and plan to file a suit this month.
"There should be more support for the people who were abused all those years ago, not less," said the woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Susan. "I don't care if it happened in 1800 or yesterday. A victim is a victim. A molestation is a molestation."According to prosecutors and defense attorneys, the following Inland Empire cases also will be dismissed:
• Ronald Carr, 49, of Hemet. Carr, a Hemet city employee, had his case dismissed during a Riverside County Superior Court hearing Monday. Carr was previously offered a 32-year prison term as part of a plea bargain to 30 counts tied to the molestation of various female family members under age 16, according to his attorney, Harmon.
• Donald Farmer, 65, of Central California. Farmer was accused by four alleged victims of 1966 molestations near Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino Mountains while he was a priest. Farmer was charged with 14 felony counts.
• Charles Wesslund, 64, and his wife, Patricia Wesslund, 50, of Crestline. Charles Wesslund, a Los Angeles County fire captain, faced more than 60 charges for alleged molestations that occurred between 1981 and 1984. His wife's four charges will be dismissed, Kochis said, but Charles Wesslund will be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges, including possession of narcotics and being under the influence.
• Kenneth Daniel, 59, of Redlands. Three alleged victims accused Daniel, a middle-school teacher in Redlands, of engaging in sexual misconduct. He faced five charges brought last year and is due in court for a July 25 hearing likely to be rescheduled for a dismissal.Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who wrote the 1995 book "Sex, Priests and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis," said this week's settlement agreement by the Diocese of San Bernardino indicates that the Catholic Church may face more pressure because of the Supreme Court ruling.
"My impression of the significance of this settlement is that the church now has a larger problem on its hands," said Sipe, who served as an expert witness for the brothers in their suit against the diocese.
"It can no longer point to these men as criminals to be handled in a different court. The church must now take responsibility for the training and teaching of these men. The moral weight on the church is now greater, not less."
Attorney John Manly, who won a $5.2-million settlement on behalf of an Orange County man in 2001, said it was the largest pretrial settlement in U.S. history for a sex abuse case involving a priest.
Manly has filed 30 lawsuits in recent weeks accusing priests of molesting children in Southern California and is expected to file at least 20 more.
He applauded the San Bernardino settlement.
"I think this reflects the reality that the San Bernardino Diocese felt a jury would perceive their conduct as outrageous, egregious and inexcusable," he said. "It also reflects the gravity of the injury to the plaintiffs."
By Marci Hamilton firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, in Stogner v. California, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional California's law retroactively lifting the statute of limitations on child abuse. The Court held that the law violated the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause, which prohibits certain retroactive criminal laws. The purpose of the Clause is to protect citizens from arbitrary government action changing the legal status of actions that occurred in the past.
Abuse victims were deeply and understandably upset by the decision in Stogner. As a result of the ruling, predators bound for prison got off scot free. For some, it seemed too much to bear.
But the Supreme Court had little choice. Upholding California's law would have required a rather drastic revision of the Ex Post facto prohibition.
The real fault is not with the Court, but with state legislatures. The statute of limitations for child abuse in California, and in many other states, is simply too short.
Why Child Abuse Statutes of Limitations Must Be Lengthy to Address the Crime
Some of the ugliest comments in the clergy child abuse scandal have been by defenders of the Church who have argued that since the child knows what is happening during the abuse, a short statute of limitations is fair.
Not only are their comments cruel, but their premise is inaccurate. Children often live with the ugliness of child abuse for years, held within themselves, precisely because they are not certain exactly what happened, or how to judge it. They need maturity to comprehend the situation.
It is understandably hard for a child to fully understand that the fault belonged to a trusted, revered authority figure, charged with interpreting the word of God - and not to the child himself or herself. A child's mind may find it hard to reckon with the idea that the same figures who meted out advice, and in some cases, sanctions, now deserve sanction themselves.
He or she may also wrongly feel somehow culpable in the abuse, especially if he or she did not fight against it, or tell anyone else about it. When abusers offer "love" and gifts in a bid to guarantee the child's silence, the guilt may only intensify.
For this reason, it is all the more important that the victim sees his or her abuser eventually go to prison for their crimes. Even when many years have gone by, the victims still feels a sense of justice and safety. The prison term validates the victim's experience; society's fingering the one who is really to blame frees the victim from guilt and feelings of implicitly culpability.
In light of these realities, it is only fair to extend, if not eliminate, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. There is no statute of limitations on murder. And because the abuse so often kills the child's innocence and childhood, the analogy is not inapt.
Some states have accordingly abolished any statute of limitations for criminal child abuse - and other states should follow their lead.
Abolishing the Statute of Limitations May Prompt Confessions
Among other benefits, abolishing child abuse statutes of limitations may prompt confessions - confessions that the victims desperately need to hear - and settlement. That is exactly what occurred in one case after California retroactively extended its child abuse statute of limitations, and before Stogner negated the extension.
The case arose when two men in their thirties came forward to allege that, as altar boys in the 1970s, they had each been abused numerous times by the same priest - Edward Lawrence Ball of Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Bernardino, California. (Neither boy had previously known about the other's abuse.)
The result was to prompt Ball to confess to molesting the boys, and also to prompt a record settlement. Under the settlement, the archdiocese and an Illinois religious order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, agreed to each pay $2.1 million to the men. (The men did not settle their claims against Ball himself, however.)
After Stogner, Ball was released from jail. In theory, the Court could have demanded reconsideration of the settlement. But it did not - probably due to Father Ball's confession and the outrage prompted by the abuse he committed.
As the victims have stated repeatedly, these lawsuits are not about money. Rather, they are about teaching the Church a lesson it sorely needs to learn: It is responsible for the children who come into contact with its priests.
Settlement Versus Jury Trial: Which Is the Better Option for Victims
The resolution of the two men's case against Ball leaves open a larger question: Are settlements or jury trials the best option for child abuse victims?
One advantage of a jury trial is that it can place responsibility exactly where it belongs. For instance, the Dallas diocese lost a civil trial based on Rudy Kos's sexual abuse. The jury found that the diocese had committed fraud and engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse, and awarded the plaintiffs $119.6 million. When it rendered its verdict, the foreman read the following brief statement: "Please admit your guilt and allow these young men to get on with their lives." The courtroom, by all accounts, erupted in applause. (The plaintiffs later settled for $23.4 million, probably to avoid endless appeals, but the point had been made - and made very publicly.)
The recent settlement reached with the Boston archdiocese was not nearly as satisfying a vindication for victims. Originally, the agreement would have been for $30 million. But the Church - despite its ability to go after its insurer for the money - claimed it could not go on with its mission to aid other victims if it paid that much. The claim seems dubious, to say the least: Later investigation revealed approximately $160 million in land holdings alone.
In the end, the Boston settlement had victims apologizing to other victims for getting so little. They explained that they just could not go on with a seemingly endless process that prolonged the pain.
That is certainly a reasonable consideration. But victims should think twice before accepting a settlement in lieu of a trial. As difficult as a trial may be for victims, it offers an opportunity to have their community--via the jury--express its outrage on their behalf, which can have a strong healing effect. In the Dallas case, for instance, the victims - once isolated - through the trial found supporters to condemn the Church's wrongs in no uncertain terms.
Victims may, in the end, find greater satisfaction in airing the crimes and wrongs to a jury of persons from their community - not just to the attorneys negotiating their settlement. It is hard for a settlement to match the justice rendered by that Dallas jury in 1997 - and more victims should persevere to seek that kind of justice, which they deserve.
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