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  Plaintiff, Stockton Diocese Reach $3 Million Agreement in O'Grady Case

By Kim Curtis
Associated Press, carried in Mercury News [California]
May 19, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton and lawyers for a victim of abuse by a former priest have agreed to settle a pending civil claim for $3 million, an attorney said Thursday.

The unidentified victim accused the diocese of failing to protect him from a known molester, Oliver O'Grady, who served as a priest at St. Anne's in Lodi in the 1970s. The diocese has already paid more than $10 million for claims involving O'Grady.

A statement from Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire said the diocese was pleased to "bring this matter to closure," and it looked forward to continuing "to reach fair and just resolutions for the victims of childhood sexual abuse."

The agreement was reached late Wednesday, according to plaintiff's lawyer John Manly. However, the victim did not give up his right to sue O'Grady as an individual. A trial was expected to begin this summer, Manly said.

"It's very clear that there were many priests, like Father O'Grady, who were serial pedophiles who spent as much time in ministry as they did hurting kids," Manly said. "My client's abuse is horrific and without his courage to come out of the shadows, none of this would have been possible."

O'Grady has a history of abuse in the Stockton diocese, where he served from 1971-1993. Cardinal Roger Mahony, who is now archbishop of Los Angeles, was bishop there from 1980 to 1985, during part of O'Grady's tenure. He and O'Grady were deposed in the recently settled case.

Plaintiffs and O'Grady himself allege the diocese knew as early as 1976 he was a child molester.

In 1984, O'Grady's therapist reported him to Child Protective Services. Stockton police investigated, but dropped the case a month later, after being unable to confirm the abuse of a 9-year-old boy.

A diocesan attorney promised police O'Grady would be removed from the parish and transferred to a location where he wouldn't work with children.

In December of that year, O'Grady was transferred to a rural parish in the Sierra foothill community of San Andreas, where he exchanged friendly letters with Mahony. They discussed O'Grady's therapy and a possible retreat so he could mull over his future in the priesthood. All the while, a 1998 criminal trial later revealed, O'Grady continued to molest the 9-year-old boy and his younger brother, even though they lived in a distant town.

"The significance of this case is twofold," Manly said. "We were very fortunate to get two depositions: Roger Mahony and Oliver O'Grady. If you do nothing more than read those two depositions, you get a very clear picture of the way California diocese operated."

In a 1998 civil trial, a Stockton jury ordered the diocese to pay two abused brothers $30 million, which was later reduced to $7.5 million. O'Grady pleaded guilty in 1993 to criminal charges involving those same brothers; he was paroled in 2000.

In March, the diocese agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle claims by two other alleged O'Grady victims who were elementary school students at St. Anne's.

Four additional civil suits against O'Grady are pending from his time in the diocese. They're among 160 lawsuits filed in Northern California that are known collectively as Clergy III.

More than 750 civil lawsuits were filed against Roman Catholic dioceses in California since the state in 2002 temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for filing sex-abuse claims.

Last week, Manly filed a more than 400-page deposition along with a videotape copy in Alameda County Superior Court, in an effort to persuade the court not to dismiss a civil suit against the Stockton diocese.

During the two-day deposition taken in March, O'Grady revealed disturbing details of his attraction to children and his methods for grooming his many victims.

 
 

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