Subpoenaed -- Again
But He Couldn't Dodge a Determined Process Server

By Ron Russell
San Francisco Weekly
January 18, 2006

Former San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada's visit to the city last week created the kind of media stir that the powerful Roman Catholic prelate may have preferred to skip.

And he did, mostly.

Avoiding a phalanx of TV cameras, Levada ducked into a side door of the Sansome Street office tower where he was deposed by attorneys for alleged clergy sex abuse victims who have sued the Archdiocese of Portland, where Levada was archbishop from 1986 to 1995. The media herd was in front of the building expecting to get a look at Levada -- it was his first trip here since being named by Pope Benedict XVI to a top Vatican post last August. Despite a daylong TV news stakeout, the newly appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith eluded reporters upon leaving the premises (again using a side door) seven hours later.

But he couldn't dodge a determined process server.

"It was really a piece of cake," says Anthony Piscitelli, who presented Levada with a subpoena to appear for yet another deposition in San Francisco in March -- this one on behalf of an attorney for a Marin County woman who has sued the San Francisco Archdiocese alleging she was sexually abused by a priest during Levada's tenure as archbishop here.

(What Levada told the Portland plaintiffs' lawyers isn't known, since attorneys on both sides are prohibited from discussing the proceeding. As SF Weekly reported two weeks ago, Levada was expected to be grilled about a former priest, Father Joseph Baccellieri, whom he removed from active ministry in 1992 and then restored to ministry two years later despite having already approved secret payments to three of the priest's alleged sex abuse victims who had threatened to sue the archdiocese.)

Piscitelli says he placed the subpoena in Levada's possession after the archbishop attempted to turn and walk away. "I stuck it beneath a newspaper he had wedged under his arm and said, 'Sir, you are served,'" he says.

It was nothing like the drama associated with Levada's being handed a subpoena last August before a farewell Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, when two process servers cornered Levada in a wardrobe room. (That subpoena resulted in the trip to San Francisco from Rome last week.) After Levada resisted accepting service from one of them, a second process server, Cookie Gambucci, says she made the archbishop -- whom she described as "visibly upset" -- an offer he couldn't refuse.

"I told him that unless he took the subpoena, I would signal a colleague in the audience and that, if necessary, we would walk up to the altar during the service and hand it to him before God and everybody," Gambucci says. "And you know what? We would have, too."


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