|Priest Abuse Cases to Settle for $1 Million
14 Men Allege They Were Abused at a Youth Facility
By Alan Gustafson
July 21, 2007
Oregon — The state has agreed to pay $1,050,000 to 14 men who sued the Rev. Michael Sprauer, alleging that he sexually abused them in the 1970s at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, said Salem attorney Daniel Gatti, who represents the men.
A state Department of Justice official confirmed Friday that a settlement was nearing completion.
"From the state's perspective, I can confirm that we are in the midst of reaching a settlement," said Stephanie Soden, a DOJ spokeswoman. "But I don't believe that everything has been finalized."
An out-of-court settlement would cap a legal battle that erupted several years ago, when the former MacLaren inmates filed a series of sex-abuse suits against the Salem priest.
"It's been a very painful experience for everybody concerned," Gatti said Friday. "I think it brings closure to an emotional chapter in everybody's lives."
The original lawsuits, dating to 2003-04, named Sprauer and the state, which employed him at MacLaren from 1972-75, as well as the Portland Archdiocese, which governs Catholic priests in Western Oregon.
The archdiocese previously settled with Sprauer's accusers, agreeing to pay them $600,000, as part of a $70 million plan to emerge from its 2004 bankruptcy.
Settlements with the archdiocese didn't prevent Sprauer's accusers from pursuing their claims against him and the state.
In May, Randy Sloan, 49, of Aumsville; Robert Paul Jr., 49, of Salem; and Norman Klettke Jr., 44, of Portland were the first Sprauer accusers to bring to trial their accusations against the priest.
After a two-week trial, a Multnomah County jury concluded that Sprauer sexually abused Sloan and Paul and awarded them nearly $1.4 million in damages. The jury cleared Sprauer of sexually abusing Klettke.
Sloan, Paul and Klettke are covered by the pending settlement with the state, Gatti said. He declined to reveal how much money they would receive once the deal is finalized.
The settlement will supercede jury-awarded compensation for Sloan and Paul, Gatti said. The verdict included $185,000 in economic damages, $1 million in noneconomic damages and $200,000 in punitive damages against Sprauer.
Gatti said legal limits on state liability in negligence cases made it highly unlikely that Sloan and Paul would have received the full amount awarded by the jury.
As part of the prospective settlement with the state, Gatti said he and his clients agreed not to pursue the jury-assessed punitive damages from Sprauer.
"We want closure, and we don't need to punish him," he said. "The jury gave its verdict, and it's clear that my clients were believed."
Paul said Friday that he was relieved by the settlement and eager to move forward.
"I'm happy this is over," he said. "I can go on and lead a regular life. It's off my shoulders."
Thomas Cooney Sr., Sprauer's Portland attorney, referred questions about the settlement to Department of Justice officials.
Contact: agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6709.
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