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  Attorneys Want Molestation Lawsuit Dismissed
Statute of Limitations Has Expired in Case against Ex-Salesianum Principal, School's Lawyer Argues

By Esteban Parra
The News Journal
June 27, 2006

http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060627/NEWS03/606270352/-1/NEWS01

Wilmington -- An attorney representing Salesianum School wants a Superior Court judge to dismiss a sexual molestation case against the prominent Catholic school and the religious order that runs it.

Attorney Mark L. Reardon told Superior Court Judge Calvin L. Scott Jr. on Monday that the statute of limitations on the case has expired.

A personal-injury lawsuit alleges that the school's former principal, the Rev. James W. O'Neill, sexually molested Eric Eden, formerly Eric Mazzetti, of Wilmington, from 1976 to 1985. Delaware's statute of limitations, however, allows juvenile victims two years after they report what happened to file a lawsuit against an attacker.

This lawsuit was filed in 2004 -- almost two decades after the last alleged molestation occurred.

"The statute has run out," Reardon said. "Not by a little. By a lot."

Attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, who represents Eden, said his client repressed more than 930 incidents before the one that was reported. Eden remembered them in early 2002 after allegations of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church led to a nationwide scandal, the attorney said.

Because other incidents had not been reported, the case should not be dismissed, Neuberger argued.

But Eden has testified that he was aware of being molested prior to the 1985 incident, Reardon said.

Neuberger explained that a psychiatrist's report in May 2005 showed Eden had repressed many of the previous alleged abuses.

"If we have controverted facts, then the facts should be decided by a jury," Neuberger told Judge Scott.

Accused later worked in Pa., N.C.

Eden said he reported the 1985 incident to his parents, who confronted and came to an oral agreement with officials at the school and the order, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

The agreement, Neuberger said, was that O'Neill would be permanently removed from youth-related ministry, sent to an undisclosed location and never have any contact with the Mazzettis. In exchange, they would not report the allegations, Neuberger said.

During an interview with a News Journal reporter in 2004, an oblate spokesman acknowledged only the 1985 allegation against O'Neill. The spokesman, Kevin A. Feeley, said Eden's parents wanted O'Neill to have no further contact with children.

Feeley denied that the order made any promise to sequester O'Neill or bar him from such ministries.

After the allegation, O'Neill was evaluated by an "independent psychologist," who gave him a clean bill of health, Feeley said. He would not name the psychologist.

The order then assigned O'Neill to Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa. He served as principal there until 1991, when he was transferred to the pastorate of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Greensboro, N.C.

During Monday's hearing, attorneys for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli and O'Neill asked that the lawsuit against them be dismissed.

Anthony G. Flynn, the diocese's attorney, said the order -- not the diocese -- was responsible for recruiting, training and assigning O'Neill.

Scott said he would consider the attorneys' arguments.

Contact Esteban Parra at 324-2299 or eparra@delawareonline.com.

 
 

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