Abuse Claims Refuted, Upheld
Richmond: Former Altar Boy Says He Was Molested As Teen at Salesian High; One Witness Calls Sex Charge 'Ludicrous'
By Ryan Huff
The West County Times [Richmond CA]
July 11, 2006
Witnesses in a priest molestation civil trial on Monday supported and refuted the credibility of an altar boy who says he was abused some 35 years ago at a Richmond Catholic high school.
The former altar boy, Joey Piscitelli, says a vice principal abused him between 1969 and 1971 at Salesian High School.
Piscitelli's brother and therapist testified in a Martinez courtroom Monday that the victim told them about the abuse within the past decade.
"Every memory he's ever told me has always been the same," said Berkeley therapist Dean Lobovits, who has seen Piscitelli for 11 years. "He's always been consistent."
Piscitelli said that vice principal Stephen Whelan masturbated in front of him and the school's Boys Club director Sal Billante, according to testimony from Lobovits and Piscitelli's younger brother.
However, Billante denied that ever happened.
"No, that's ludicrous," he testified. "It would have started a riot immediately."
Billante went to prison in 1989 after a conviction for committing a lewd act on a child younger than 14 in San Francisco.
Piscitelli, now a 50-year-old Martinez resident who is a coordinator for the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, is expected to take the stand before testimony wraps up Friday. He claims the school failed to stop the abuse.
He was able to file suit in 2003 because of a state law that lifted for one year the statute of limitations for old molestation civil cases. He seeks unspecified damages.
The trial is the second in the past two months involving Salesian High School. The Salesian order reached a $700,000 settlement with another man June 28 in Alameda County Superior Court during jury deliberations.
Wayne Mason, a Texas-based attorney representing the Salesian order for the Piscitelli case, said the plaintiff has fabricated a tale. The defense attorney pointed out that Piscitelli's good friend and sister-in-law both doubted his stories of abuse.
In the early 1970s, Piscitelli strangely became despondent with his family, said his brother Vincent.
"In that period, he quieted down and was less participatory with the family," his brother testified. "I didn't know what had happened at the time."
Piscitelli's therapist testified that his patient suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia because of the abuse.
On one occasion, Whelan groped the altar boy when claiming he needed to search him for marijuana, the therapist said.
"To this day he encounters trauma around male authority figures," Lobovits said.
Whelan is expected to testify this afternoon.
Reach Ryan Huff at 925-977-8471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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