Diocese May Pay $10M to 30 Victims
Creditors Still Must Approve the Settlements. Three Yuma Boys Molested by Priest Could Receive at Least $600,000 Each, a Lawyer Says

By Sheryl Kornman
Tucson Citizen [Tucson AZ]
June 15, 2005

Thirty people seeking compensation from the Diocese of Tucson for sexual abuse by its clergy will receive nearly $10 million if creditors in the diocese bankruptcy case approve later this month. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Marlar approved 28 settlement agreements yesterday that are subject to creditor approval.

Most of the people in the settlements approved yesterday are represented by attorneys Lynne Cadigan and Kim Williamson, who reached an estimated $14 million settlement for 10 victims in 2002.

Four claimants in the settlements accepted by the judge yesterday are three Yuma brothers and their mother, who is awaiting a liver transplant.

The Rev. Juan Guillen, the priest named by the boys as their abuser, is serving a 10-year prison sentence after accepting a plea deal in the criminal case against him.

Each of the youths is expected to receive at least $600,000 and likely more, Williamson said.

The mother will receive a percentage of the award to her sons.

Williamson said the family looks forward to getting its money later this summer.

The funds will not only provide an economic boost during a time of great need, but also help the family members move on with their lives, she said.

"The settlement gives them acknowledgement" that the abuse occurred, Williamson said.

Meetings with the diocese's insurers are under way this week to determine how much they will contribute to a settlement fund being created to pay abuse claimants.

The fund is expected to total at least $15.7 million, including more than $3 million raised in the recent sale of diocese properties.

The diocese has asked for $5 million to provide counseling to abuse victims and to continue its education of employees to prevent abuse.

The diocese's parishes are expected to contribute to the settlement fund but have not determined how much they will put up.

Williamson said the lawsuits she and Cadigan filed before the diocese bankruptcy action name the individual parishes where the alleged abuses took place as parties in each case.

She said that if the parishes do not contribute to the settlement fund, the attorneys will continue their civil cases against them outside of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

Two attorneys representing anticipated future claimants - adults with repressed memory or minors who are expected to come forward in the next few years with claims of abuse - have filed objections to 67 of the 103 claims alleging abuse.

The aim is to reduce the number of claimants now, to ensure a significant fund for future payouts to minors and adults who were unable to come forward by the April 15 deadline set by the court.

Responses to the objections must be filed by Friday.

The next hearing in the Chapter 11 case on objections to claims is set for 9:30 a.m. June 30.


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