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  Diocese Seeks Venue Change
Judge Asked to Rethink Abuse Case Being in Boston Instead of Albany

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
September 24, 2004

ALBANY -- Bishop Howard Hubbard's attorneys filed court papers Wednesday asking a Massachusetts judge to rethink a decision earlier this week to allow a multimillion-dollar clergy sex-abuse lawsuit to move toward trial in Boston.

Hubbard and former Cardinal Bernard Law are accused in the $5 million civil claim of harboring a predatory priest with a history of having sex with young boys and then placing him in a Fort Ann parish where he had access to Joseph Woodward.Woodward, a 37-year-old married father and salesman, claims he was sexually abused in both states in the 1980s by the former Rev. Dozia Wilson.

He claims Wilson molested him from age 14 to 19 and says Hubbard and Law knowingly covered up for Wilson and other pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish, and state to state.

Lawyers for the Albany Diocese renewed their claim in court papers filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts that it makes sense to handle the case here, where most of the affected parties live -- and where the lion's share of the alleged abuse took place.

Law currently resides in Rome.

Handling the case here would be easier and less expensive, church officials said.

Woodward's attorney, John Aretakis, filed the case in Boston and says keeping it there -- where the national predatory priest scandal first surfaced in 2002 -- gives his client an edge.

He also acknowledged that Woodward can't bring his case in New York, because of the statute of limitations.

"In an attempt to bolster his position, plaintiff refers to several unspecific trips to Boston with Wilson," the diocese's Boston lawyer, Timothy P. O'Neill, said in court papers. "Forum shopping for a favorable statute of limitations is not permitted."

Aretakis insisted Thursday that Boston is the proper venue.

And he accused the Albany Diocese of doing anything it can to hold up justice for the victims he represents.

Woodward said he found it disturbing that the appeal was filed on Wednesday, the same day retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard Levine was releasing a comprehensive $5.2 million plan to assist clergy sex abuse victims.

"It doesn't seem very Christian," he said.

Diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb said the timing wasn't intentional. "We're just following through on the whole process," he said. "And we'll see where it leads."

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, in Massachusetts, and Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro have each launched preliminary criminal investigations into the former priest's alleged actions.

Hubbard removed Wilson from ministry in 1990 when more complaints from young boys surfaced.

He was defrocked in 1993.

 
 

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