Clergy Abuse Lawyers Scour for Information

By Ross Farrow
Lodi News-Sentinel [California]
November 6, 2004

Hoping to find any tidbit of information on former Lodi Priest Oliver O'Grady, attorneys in a civil sexual abuse case against the Stockton Diocese have resorted to local newspaper advertising to find potential witnesses.

Orange County attorneys John Manly and Ryan DiMaria, who represent a former altar boy at St. Anne's Catholic Church who says that O'Grady had sexually abused him in the 1970s, have advertised in the News-Sentinel six times looking for more information on the case. A June trial date has been set in San Joaquin County Superior Court. However, investigations for all Northern California clergy abuse cases is being coordinated through Alameda County, Manly said.

The Stockton Diocese has seven pending lawsuits that involve O'Grady. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese is scheduled to give a deposition before the end of the year about his knowledge about O'Grady. Mahony was bishop of the Stockton Diocese from 1980 to 1985.

O'Grady, a priest at St. Anne's from 1971 to 1978, later served at Church of the Presentation in Stockton, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock, St. Andrew Catholic Church in San Andreas and St. Anthony Catholic Church in Hughson.

O'Grady served seven years at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione after pleading guilty in 1993 to four counts of sexual abuse with children under 14 in San Andreas, according to Calaveras County court records. The plea didn't involve Manly's and DiMaria's client.

O'Grady was paroled from prison in late 2000 and deported to his native Ireland a short time later. The two male victims in the Calaveras County criminal case were awarded $29.2 million by a San Joaquin County jury in 1998, but a judge later reduced the award, so both sides filed cross appeals. While the appeal was pending, the victims and diocese settled for $7.5 million.

To gain more information regarding the former altar boy's case, Manly and DiMaria placed a quarter-page advertisement in the News-Sentinel five times this week and one time last week. The advertisement is in a bold, black background with large white lettering that says, "Did you know Fr. Oliver O'Grady?"

"Some of the best information we get is from the public, from parishioners," DiMaria said in a phone interview Friday. "We've done those kinds of ads around the country (on other cases) and got some good information."

The advertisement, which has not been published in any other newspaper, says the attorneys are looking for "any information, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

Stockton attorney Paul Balestracci, who represents the Stockton Diocese, said the diocese has offered many times for childhood sexual abuse victims to contact the diocese office so that officials there can help them. Victims should call Sister Barbara Thiella at 466-0636, Balestracci said.

"We have, at the time cases surfaced in 1990s, aimed at offering compassionate care to anyone who was victimized," Thiella said. "We continue to make that same offer. We continue to want to reach out to people."

Each of the 33 parishes and 14 schools in the Stockton Diocese has a "safe environment coordinator," Thiella said. Information is available at the diocese Web site,, by clicking onto "protecting our children.

As for the propriety of placing newspaper advertisements seeking information on O'Grady, Balestracci said, "I won't comment on what another attorney does."

Manly and DiMaria said Friday that they have already received response from the ads in the News-Sentinel.

"We've already got some good information from people," DiMaria said. "We also got some hate mail, which is fine too."

On Friday, DiMaria said he got a call from someone calling him the "scum of the earth."

DiMaria said he will continue to advertise for potential witnesses periodically as long as he gets response from the ads.

"It's a bold step, but we're dealing with the abuse and victimization of children," he said.


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