DA Drops Abuse Case against Catholic Priest
Archdiocese - a Prosecutor Says a Girl's Account Can't Be Corroborated

By Ashbel S. Green
The Oregonian
October 5, 2007

Prosecutors have decided not to press charges against a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a girl in Portland.

The Rev. Joseph V. Hoang, 40, will remain on administrative leave while the Portland Archdiocese conducts an internal review, said Bud Bunce, a church spokesman.

The family of his accuser also has filed a $6.25 million civil claim against the archdiocese.

Susan Elizabeth Reese, Hoang's attorney, said her client wanted to return to his Tillamook parish and resume his ministry.

"We're absolutely thrilled. And Father Hoang is totally gratified. He's totally innocent of any wrongdoing," Reese said.

Charlene C. Woods, a deputy Multnomah County district attorney, said she decided not to proceed with the case because evidence contradicted the girl's accusations and investigators could not corroborate her claims.

Kelly W.G. Clark, the accuser's attorney, said he was "extremely disappointed" but said the civil justice system would vindicate his client.

"A jury of her peers is going to get a chance to evaluate her credibility, and I don't have any doubt they will find her credible," Clark said.

The archdiocese put Hoang on leave in March after the girl's family told church officials that the priest had sexually abused their daughter.

Priests and other Catholic officials are automatically placed on administrative leave when potentially credible sex abuse allegations surface, Bunce said. Church officials did not look into the charges while the Portland police and the district attorney's office were investigating, he said.

Hoang was 7 when he and his family escaped Vietnam in 1975, according to an article in the Oregon Catholic Sentinel. He later attended schools in Virginia and California.

Hoang entered Mount Angel Seminary in 1992. He was ordained a priest in 1999. He worked in St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Salem, St. Mary's in Eugene and St. Pius X in Cedar Mill before moving to Sacred Heart in Tillamook in 2004, Bunce said.

Hoang's accuser is not a Sacred Heart parishioner.

The Portland Archdiocese has been involved in civil lawsuits over priest sex abuse for at least two decades. But only one priest has ever been charged criminally in Oregon. The Rev. Thomas Laughlin pleaded guilty in 1983 to molesting two boys in Multnomah County. Laughlin is no longer a priest.

Most of the priest sex-abuse claims in Oregon involve decades-old allegations that are too old to prosecute. In Oregon, criminal charges generally must be filed against an alleged abuser before the victim turns 24. Civil suits, on the other hand, can be filed decades after the abuse occurred.

In 2004, Portland became the first Catholic archdiocese in the country to seek bankruptcy protection from priest-abuse lawsuits. A $75 million settlement was approved earlier this year.


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