|Lawsuit Targets Former Santa Rosa Priest
By Robert Digitale
April 3, 2008
A new lawsuit against former Roman Catholic priest Gary Timmons became public this week after an attorney ran a newspaper advertisement seeking new information about the convicted child molester.
The ad was labeled "Did You Know Fr. Gary Timmons?" and appeared in The Press Democrat at least three times in the past week. It was purchased by a Newport Beach attorney who himself received a $5.2 million settlement as a plaintiff in a molestation lawsuit filed a decade ago against the Orange County diocese.
The attorney, Ryan DiMaria, represents an anonymous man who filed suit nearly a year ago, claiming that Timmons repeatedly molested him three decades ago. The molestation, which DiMaria maintains included "the whole gamut of abuse," allegedly occurred at such places as St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa and Camp St. Michael, a church summer camp in Mendocino County.
"These cases have not stopped," DiMaria said.
He maintained that the response of the church to the victims of sexual abuse is "not very pastoral."
In response, a private attorney representing Timmons in court papers has denied all the allegations.
The attorney for the Santa Rosa Diocese has argued that the case must be dismissed because the statute of limitations has passed.
"This ad is just an obvious attempt to drum up victims," attorney Adrienne Moran said Wednesday.
In regard to victim care, Moran said the church continues to offer free counseling sessions to any who say they were victimized by any priest who served in the diocese.
The diocese has acknowledged paying nearly $25 million to a undisclosed number of people molested by at least six priests. Most victims were pre-teen boys when the molestations began.
In regard to Timmons, the church has acknowledged paying $1.6 million to 11 victims.
Timmons served four years in state prison after reaching a plea agreement with Sonoma County prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor child molesting charges. He was released in 2000.
The newlawsuit, filed April 26, 2007, is named John BK Doe versus Doe 1 et al, and includes many unnamed defendants. However, attorneys for both sides acknowledged that Timmons is "Doe 4," the defendant accused of molestation. One summons record identifies Timmons by name and says he was served at an address in Sacramento.
A key issue will be whether the lawsuit is barred by the statute of limitations.
In 2003, the California Legislature opened a one-year window in the statute of limitations for decades-old molestation claims. In court documents DiMaria wrote that the change in the law allowed an estimated 1,000 cases that previously were barred from moving forward.
DiMaria maintained that his client is legally entitled to sue now because he had suffered from "repressed memory" and recalled the molestation only in the past two years.
In the last two years at least two other men have filed suits in Sonoma County making similar arguments about repressed memories. One of those lawsuits accused Timmons of sexual molestation.
Moran said the church will contest the repressed memory argument.
"I think it is simply an attempt to avoid the statute of limitations, and that's the basis of our challenge," she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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