Court to Rule on Diocese Files
The Lawyer for 2 Women Who Say a Priest Assaulted Them Wants Records of Similar Rockford-Area Cases to Be Released

Rockford Register Star [Rockford IL]
April 27, 2005

The issue getting the most court time in a sexual assault lawsuit against the Rockford Catholic Diocese is how much information can be made public.

A Kane County court ruled last week that sworn testimony gathered by lawyers as they prepare for trial shall not be shared beyond the attorneys, their staffs and their clients.

The order refers to statements made in pretrial depositions regarding the suit, which was filed by two young women who say they were assaulted by priest Mark Campobello in 1999 and 2000 when he served a Kane County church and school. The two women, now young adults, are suing the diocese and Campobello, asking for more than $50,000 each for emotional and psychological damage.

Still to be decided, at the next court hearing June 16, is whether the diocese has to release files on more than 30 other priests who have been accused of sexual misbehavior in the past 50 years.

Keith Aeschliman, the women's lawyer, wants to see how the diocese handled other cases to help prove that it did not correctly handle Campobello. The diocese contends that those files have nothing to do with the Campobello case.

Also to be decided is whether Aeschliman can review diocesan records on Campobello's mental health. The diocese says it cannot release them because mental-health records are protected under law. Aeschliman said Tuesday he will ask Judge F. Keith Brown to look at the records and decide whether they fall under that classification.

The priest, who was relieved of his Catholic duties when he was arrested in December 2002, pleaded guilty to sexual assaults of the two girls, one 14 and one 16 at the time. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in May.

At the time of his arrest, Campobello was at St. James Parish in Belvidere.

As court hearings and arguments over files continue, both parties in the civil suit say they want closure for the victims.

The diocese has offered three times to sit down and discuss a settlement but never got a response from Aeschliman, said Ellen Lynch, an attorney formerly with Hinshaw & Culbertson in Rockford who now works for the diocese.

"I cannot imagine that these girls want to continue this litigation. They deserve justice and disclosure," Lynch said Tuesday.

She said Bishop Thomas Doran has written personal letters to the girls, letting them know the diocese is ready to settle.

Aeschliman said the diocese has never sent him a monetary proposal.

"The indications I have from my clients are not that they necessarily want a trial, but what they want is the truth," Aeschliman said. "They are totally hung up on how this occurred and what the diocese did about it or should have done about it," he said.

"When they have that, we may make a decision."


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