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  Woman Drops Suit in Sex Case against Her Priest
Pastor Had Denied He Molested Parishioner

By Robert Goodrich
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
June 11, 2002

A woman who accused her parish priest of fondling her during counseling sessions has dropped the $100,000 sexual battery suit she had filed against him in circuit court in Belleville.

Circuit Judge Stephen M. Kernan ordered Monday that the case be dismissed "with prejudice," meaning that it cannot be revived.

The accuser, Judy L. Hangsleben, 52, of New Baden, filed the suit four months ago, acting as her own attorney, although she said she had a lawyer's advice and help.

The defendants were the Rev. Daniel L. Friedman, pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Aviston, and the Catholic Diocese of Belleville. Hangsleben's suit asked for $100,000 from each.

Hangsleben charged in her suit that Friedman had fondled her during counseling sessions on Jan. 4, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2.

Her suit said that when she resisted and protested, Friedman retaliated by barring her from serving as lector during Mass and from other parish duties.

Friedman was conducting a funeral Monday and could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Ted MacDonald of Edwardsville, had moved for dismissal of the suit. Hangsleben subsequently concurred.

MacDonald said, "Father Friedman is, of course, pleased that the case has been dismissed because the events described in the lawsuit never happened."

Hangsleben was not in court. Reached by phone at home, she said she had agreed to drop the case. "It was too much stress on me and causing so much disruption," she said.

Asked if she was backing off from her accusations, she paused and replied, "I'm not going to discuss it any more. It's over. It's done with. I'm on good speaking terms with the priest. I think things are best just left the way they are."

Friedman was backed by many parishioners, who said they believed Hangsleben's accusations were false.

In 1994, the diocese ordered Friedman and 12 other priests removed from parish work and any private contact with children over reports of sexual misconduct with a minor in the late 1980s.

But after a more thorough review, Friedman became the only one of those priests to be returned to active ministry.

A diocesan review board handles sexual misconduct cases involving minors, but Hangsleben said earlier that diocesan officials had told her the board would not involve itself with matters involving priests and adult women.

The Rev. James Margason, vicar general for the Belleville Diocese, said Monday that he had been informed Hangsleben's suit had been dismissed.

"It seems to end the allegations she was making against Father Friedman," he said.

 
 

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