$5 Million Settlement Nears Completion for 27 Who Claimed Priest Abuse

By Jeffrey Gold
The Associated Press, carried in New York Newsday [Newark NJ]
February 10, 2005

NEWARK, N.J. -- A $5 million settlement for 27 men who claimed they were molested by Roman Catholic priests could be completed by early next week, according to a person involved in the case.

If the settlement is signed by all the plaintiffs, the sum would be the largest payout by a New Jersey diocese in a clergy sex abuse case. The deal with the Diocese of Paterson also would provide four years of counseling for the men, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Most of the men claimed they were violated as boys from 1968 to 1982 by James Hanley, who served at three northern New Jersey parishes. He was removed from the priesthood in 2002, 17 years after church officials learned of complaints against him.

The lawsuit filed by the men 13 months ago claimed that church officials, including former Bishop Frank Rodimer, failed to take action to protect the youths.

Hanley was not sued because he cooperated with the plaintiffs, providing a statement detailing sexual acts he did with boys. The statement also said he admitted to Rodimer in 1984 that he had molested about a dozen boys.

Prosecutors said they could not bring criminal charges against Hanley because the statute of limitations had expired.

Hanley served at St. Joseph's in Mendham, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pompton Plains and St. Christopher's in Parsippany.

Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Thursday's newspapers that "my understanding is that we're moving toward a settlement." A diocesan spokeswoman did not immediately return a message Thursday.

The lawyer for 26 of the men, Gregory G. Gianforcaro, said, "I think that at this point it's a little too early to discuss any complete and final resolution of this matter. However, I do believe that Bishop Serratelli committed to the victims and their healing."

"The plaintiffs have requested that I not discuss the overall settlement amount. Additionally, my clients have also asked that the amounts that they each receive separately not be disclosed," he said Thursday.

The case has been followed by David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who said he hopes Hanley is ultimately prosecuted.

"The best outcome is that Hanley's in jail and kids are safe. The second most important thing is that Hanley's victims feel some comfort and closure," Clohessy said.

One plaintiff, Kevin Kingree, said he hoped the diocese would improve its sex abuse policies.

"It would be nearly impossible for me to say I was satisfied with how things turned out," Kingree told the newspaper. He said Hanley abused him when he was in the seventh grade at St. Joseph's. "At the end of the day, still it's a bit unsettling."

Another plaintiff, Robert Deacon, told the Daily Record of Parsippany, "It closes a chapter but I don't feel any great satisfaction."

Deacon, 57, of Randolph, claimed he was abused by Monsignor Julian Verettoni decades ago at St. Mary's parish in Wharton.

Verettoni, who also was not charged because of the statute of limitations, continues to work at Sacred Heart parish in Clifton. A diocesan board last year determined Deacon had insufficient evidence to warrant action. Deacon said he has appealed that decision to Rome.

A notice that lawyers had reached a settlement was signed Feb. 1 by state Superior Court Judge Deanne M. Wilson and filed at the Morris County Courthouse.

Recent settlements in New Jersey include a $1 million payout the Newark Archdiocese reached with 10 accusers last year. The Metuchen Diocese settled for $800,000 with 10 accusers in 2003. The Camden Diocese has settled for $955,000 with more than 20 accusers since 2002.

A record $100 million settlement of 90 lawsuits was unsealed last month between alleged victims of priest sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, Calif. It surpassed the $85 million the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay 552 plaintiffs in 2002.


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