Priest Owes Molestation Victim Millions
Despite Priest's Church Paycheck, Victim Sees Nothing
October 28, 2004
An East Bay priest who admits to molesting at least three young boys promised to pay one of his victims millions of dollars to settle a lawsuit. That was a year ago, and the priest has paid nothing while he continues to draw a salary from the Catholic Church.
The $17 million dollar settlement in the case of Father Robert Freitas stands as the largest in U.S. history for a single victim of clergy sexual abuse. But, to his victim, it doesn't really mean very much because the priest hasn't paid a dime. He's also avoided a prison sentence even though he admits molesting several young boys.
Mark Bogdanowicz, clergy abuse survivor: "My first sexual experience had to be against my will with a man."
Mark Bogdanowicz was a 15-year-old altar boy when father Robert Freitas first sexually assaulted him inside Santa Paula Catholic Church in Fremont. After Mark came forward two years ago, the priest pleaded guilty to molestation charges. But the Supreme Court tossed out the conviction because the abuse happened in 1979 and 1980, well beyond the statute of limitations. Freitas was free to go.
Mark Bogdanowicz, clergy abuse survivor: "I think I've tried everything. I've tried to have him do jail time, I've tried to have him register as a sex offender."
His last resort was a lawsuit and Bogdanowicz won big.
The Oakland Diocese settled for a million dollars. Father Freitas would give Mark $16 million. They signed the agreement almost a year ago, but the priest has paid nothing.
Dan Noyes: "You don't expect him to pay $16 million?"
Mark Bogdanowicz, clergy abuse survivor: "Absolutely not. If I get $5 out of his pocket every day, he would know that that $5 had to come, and that he would remember everything he had done."
Mark's even angrier because the church tells him they are still paying Freitas a salary -- about $36,000 dollars a year, plus health and auto insurance. The situation has gotten the attention of the National Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Dan McNevin, SNAP spokesman: "For Bob Freitas to be receiving a monthly stipend while Mark receives nothing is essentially a re-victimization of Mark. It's just outrageous."
We wanted to ask Father Freitas why he hasn't paid Mark Bogdanowicz a dime. The I-Team found him in his mobile home park in Hayward.
It appears Freitas is living well. He has enough money for a new pickup parked in his driveway.
Mark Bogdanowicz, clergy abuse survivor: "You mean to tell me with a judgment like that, this man has molested all these people, ruined all these people's lives and nothing is going to happen to him?"
The bishop of the Oakland diocese Allen Vigneron refused to discuss the Freitas case today, but he is taking a controversial step.
A source inside the diocese tells us the bishop is sending complaints against seven pedophile priests, including Freitas, to Rome. They may be defrocked.
That's a major change in policy. Vigneron's predecessor told us two years ago he preferred keeping sex-offending priests under church control.
Former Bishop John Cummins, Oakland diocese, from June 14, 2002: "You have to treat them; because you can't let them stay in the state they are where they can still be a menace."
And that's what bothers the survivors of clergy abuse now -- hat Vigneron is trying to cut Freitas and other pedophile priests loose.
Dan McNevin, SNAP spokesman: "He's a time bomb waiting to go off in some town. Pedophiles don't get better, they need to be monitored, and there's no method for monitoring this priest as he goes from being a priest to being a lay citizen. And my concern frankly is other kids."
On the I-Team's visit to the priest's home, they spotted the new pick-up truck and a disabled parking permit on the dashboard. The I-Team never heard that Freitas was disabled and he looked in good shape so they checked with the DMV and found that Freitas still had his mother's disabled parking permit. She died six months ago.
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