Former Student Accuses Fort Lauderdale Priest of Rape

Associated Press, carried in The Ledger [Fort Lauderdale FLA]
September 5, 2003

A former Catholic student has accused a priest of doping him with prescription drugs and then raping him more than a dozen times when he was 12 years old.

The man, now 39, said in a lawsuit that the Rev. Neil Doherty "forced" him to take Quaaludes, Valium and other psychotropic drugs before sodomizing him in 1976 at the priest's mother's home, in a hotel room and an apartment behind the parishioner's house.

The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, said Doherty introduced him to marijuana at the parish rectory in Fort Lauderdale. The man was a student at St. Anthony Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale at the time.

Doherty, 60, is on administrative leave as pastor of St. Vincent's Church in Margate and could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Kristin West, received a copy of the suit Thursday.

"I haven't had the opportunity to go over it with my client and therefore I can't comment on anything," West said.

Doherty has been a Catholic priest in Broward and Miami-Dade parishes for three decades, including serving as director of vocations for the archdiocese.

The suit is the latest of at least 26 civil complaints brought against the Archdiocese of Miami and its priests since the clergy sex scandal erupted last year. No criminal charges have been brought against any priests because the statute of limitations in the cases.

The Broward state attorney's office is investigating a sexual assault complaint filed against Doherty, said prosecutor Dennis Siegel. He declined further comment.

Jeffrey Herman, a lawyer for John Doe, said his client had not yet reported his abuse case to Broward prosecutors. He said his client, now married and living in Broward County, has suffered from severe depression, dysfunctional relationships and substance abuse. Herman said he first disclosed the alleged sexual assaults to his wife.

"The abuse was devastating to him," Herman said.

Doherty was placed on leave last year but church officials would not say whether it was because of a sexual abuse complaint. The archdiocese said his suspension was due to "an accusation of an incident" more than 20 years ago in his personnel file.

West said Doherty's absence from St. Vincent's was "not related to pedophilia."

Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said Thursday the church would not comment on the nature of the "incident" or why Doherty was placed on leave.

The John Doe suit, filed in Broward Circuit Court, named the school and archdiocese as defendants, but not Doherty. He served at St. Anthony's from 1974 to 1978, according to a Catholic church directory.

The lawsuit says the priest first began counseling the boy for emotional problems when he was a fifth-grader and later discussed drugs and introduced him to marijuana. The priest later insisted on sleep overs with the boy and forced him to take psychotropic drugs with prescriptions issued in the name of deceased priests.

The suit said the priest took the boy to his mother's Palm Beach apartment to meet her but she was not there when they arrived. Doherty is accused of giving the boy marijuana and drugs so he would pass out - and then raping the youngster.

The sexual assaults continued at a Palm Beach hotel, and, on at least 10 occasions, the priest took the student to an apartment behind a parishioner's house.

The boy never told anyone about the alleged assaults. "Doherty told him that this secret can never be revealed to anyone, especially not his parents," according to the complaint.

Herman said the priest stopped the alleged abuse after the boy's parents approached him about their son's suddenly delinquent behavior, including stealing a car.


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