|Ex-Priest Faces 2nd Sex Case
By Andy Grimm
February 15, 2008
A second Florida man claims he was sexually abused by priest Richard Emerson for years in Emerson's parish in Orlando, Fla., and the abuse continued after Emerson was transferred to the Gary Diocese.
The civil lawsuit filed by an unnamed man in Orange County, Fla., claims Emerson, a 56-year-old Hammond native, began molesting him in 1987 and that the relationship continued after the priest was transferred to the Gary Diocese in 1991.
"(Emerson) would send bus tickets to get them from Florida to Indiana, for camping trips," Joseph Saunders, attorney for both plaintiffs, said, elaborating on charges contained in the suit.
Criminal charges were not filed in the first case, filed in 2004, because prosecutors in Florida said the statute of limitations had elapsed, said Saunders.
The suit alleges the abuse began when the boy was 11 and continued into the boy's late teens. Emerson first bonded with the boy in family settings, then gradually set up overnight visits to the rectory and camping trips where he would provide alcohol to the boys and show them pornography, Saunders said.
Saunders said church officials learned of the abuse and arranged a transfer to the Gary Diocese in 1991, where Emerson eventually worked in the St. Thomas More parish in Munster, Notre Dame parish in Michigan City, and Hoosier Boys Town in Schererville.
The suit alleges diocese officials in Gary and Orlando were aware of Emerson's behavior. A 1991 letter from Orlando Bishop Norbert Dorsey to Gary Bishop Norbert Gaughan requesting to transfer Emerson back to Gary used euphemisms church officials deposed in Florida have admitted were codes for sexual abuse, Saunders said.
"In the letter from Bishop Dorsey in Orlando to the Bishop of Gary, they were told (Emerson) was getting kicked out of Orlando for focusing 'undue attention on some boys' and 'interfering in the family relationship,'" Saunders said. "The Gary Diocese knew all about him and they didn't warn anyone. (Emerson) was their chancellor. He was in charge of a school."
Invoices obtained in the investigation apparently show Emerson ordered a half dozen pornographic videos as recently as 1999, listing his billing address as St. Thomas More in Munster, and the shipping address as a home he owned in Monticello.
Gary Diocese spokesman Deacon Mark Plaiss said Emerson has no ties to the Gary Diocese and was "laicized" -- removed from the priesthood -- at his own request following an investigation into the priest's behavior after the first charges were filed in 2004.
"Not only is he not with the diocese, he's not even a priest anymore," Plaiss said.
Plaiss said he did not know where Emerson now lives. Saunders said he sends legal correspondence to an address in Las Vegas. No charges or lawsuits against Emerson have been filed by parishioners in Indiana.
Saunders said the civil trial from the case filed in 2004 is slated to begin this year.
Contact Andy Grimm at 648-3073 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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