Diocese Abuse Victims Will Get More Money
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
June 1, 2006
A federal bankruptcy judge has approved an additional $1.5 million for 20 people with valid claims they were sexually abused as children by Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson priests.
The additional funds will bring the per-person total payout to those with the most serious abuse claims as high as $700,000, minus legal fees. Additional payments are possible as more money from a settlement pool becomes available. Lawyer fees are typically 33 to 40 percent of the settlement amount.
Judge James M. Marlar on Wednesday authorized the additional payments, which will come out of the $22.4 million settlement pool that was created as a resolution to the diocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004 in the face of expensive litigation concerning sexual abuse by priests.
Including Wednesday's added payout, $12.5 million of the pool money will have been distributed to 56 people, ranging from "compromise claims" of $15,000 apiece to $700,000 per person for those in "tier four" ?? the most egregious class of claims.
The remainder of the settlement pool is on reserve for litigating disputed claims, for future claims by people who may be suffering repressed memories and for claims by people who are not yet 18.
The new funds mean those in tier four receive an extra $100,000 per person. That tier includes five people, among them three Yuma brothers who say they were repeatedly raped by the Rev. Juan Guillen, a Yuma priest now serving 10 years in state prison. As part of a plea agreement, the former associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church pleaded guilty in 2003 to two counts of attempted child molestation.
The other two in tier four also are young men from Yuma who say Guillen molested them.
The added payments include an extra $50,000 each to six people whose claims against the diocese also named dioceses in California as defendants. Included in that "California tier" are five men who say they were sexually abused by the Rev. Kevin Barmasse while they were parishioners in youth groups he led at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Sierra Vista and at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, 8650 N. Shannon Road, during the 1980s.
Barmasse was accepted from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for ministry here after he'd been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor there. The California tier received $300,000 apiece last year.
A group of nine claimants in tier three of the bankruptcy settlement plan will receive an extra $75,000 apiece, in addition to the initial disbursement of $425,000 they received last year.
"The victims in this case are pleased that they have closure. They already received a substantial amount of money and the fact that they keep getting payments is a constant reminder that the church is apologizing," said Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who represents a majority of the victims. "Of course, it never erases what happened to them."
Cadigan and others involved with the case have praised the diocese and its attorneys for emerging from bankruptcy and settling with the victims within a year of filing. Two other U.S. Catholic dioceses that have sought bankruptcy protection still are litigating their cases.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at sinnes@ azstarnet.com.
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