Court May Start Settling Diocese Sex Claims Today
If the Judge Decides to Accept a Deal Crafted for 3 Yuma Brothers, No Subsequent Claimant Will Receive More
By Sheryl Kornman
Tucson Citizen [Tucson AZ]
November 30, 2004
The first major step toward settling claims of sex abuse by Tucson Diocese priests may be taken today as a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge decides whether to accept a settlement agreement crafted by attorneys for three Yuma brothers and the diocese.
Eight new confidential claims seeking settlements have been filed in the diocese's bankruptcy reorganization case, according to court records.
Details of those claims are not being made public.
During Chapter 11 proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here, any claims of alleged sexual abuse by diocese personnel that are filed after the reorganization are to remain confidential.
The diocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization Sept. 21 because it faced an unknown number of sexual abuse claims and wanted to be able to settle them all fairly, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Bishop Gerald Kicanas.
Victims have until April 15 to file claims.
Today, Judge James Marlar will hear an agreement stemming from alleged abuse by the Rev. Juan Guillen, 60. Guillen is in prison after pleading guilty last year to a charge of attempted child molestation.
According to Susan Boswell, the diocese's chief attorney, and Lynne Cadigan, the boys' attorney, both sides have agreed that no one seeking a settlement from the diocese during the Chapter 11 proceedings will get an amount greater than that awarded to the three boys, who are in their teens.
No dollar amount will be determined until the diocese completes its reorganization plan, after April 15, Boswell said yesterday.
Boswell and Cadigan expect Marlar to approve the agreement.
The three boys have exhibited symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder as a result of sexual contact with Guillen, according to a Yuma psychologist who examined the boys.
One of the boys told the psychologist he had sex more than 200 times with the priest.
The abuse began when one of the boys was 10 and another was 8, according to a deposition filed in the case. Some of the incidents took place during altar boy practice and in the rectory of Immaculate Conception Church in Yuma, the document states.
Many of the incidents took place from 1996 to 1998, according to the deposition.
A psychologist who evaluated the boys said they appear to need lifetime care and medication as a result of the sexual trauma.
"What we're saying is, minors deserve the highest amount. Minors should come first" in the settlement, said Cadigan. "We're waiving our right to go to trial."
Cadigan said she believes the diocese is meeting with its insurers this week to get a commitment for a settlement in the Yuma boys' case.
Diocese officials would not comment on that yesterday.
Cadigan said she also represents 32 people ranging in age from 12 to 53 from throughout southern Arizona who are also seeking money from the diocese because of sexual abuse by priests who the diocese has named as having credible allegations of sexual abuse against them.
She said she hopes those cases don't have to go to trial. "We'd rather have the money go to the claimants, not the lawyers," she said.
Claimants who ask for a settlement in the bankruptcy proceedings have a right to a trial in a civil court.
The diocese has settled claims totaling an estimated $14 million with people who had been abused by priests and others.
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