|Ex-Inmate's Suit Names Fort Worth Diocese, Jailed Priest
By Bryon Okada
May 9, 2008
FORT WORTH — A lawsuit filed in state court by a former inmate at Federal Medical Center Carswell seeks undetermined damages against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and the Missionary Society of St. Paul for negligently placing a sexually abusive priest at the woman's facility.
According to the lawsuit, diocese officials knew and ignored facts indicating that Vincent Inametti, a missionary from Nigeria, had a history of "dangerous sexual proclivities towards women" stretching back to at least 1990 — including possibly fathering a daughter in the Houston area in 1991. At least twice in 2006, Inametti sexually abused female inmates at FMC Carswell.
Given his questionable history, he shouldn't have been given the opportunity, said Dallas attorney Tahira Khan Merritt, who handles many clergy sexual abuse cases.
"They know he's sexually acting out with women," Merritt said. "They had a responsibility to say, 'Let's not put him in a position with the most vulnerable women there are — incarcerated women in a medical facility.'"
Inametti worked as a chaplain at the Fort Worth medical center from Aug. 13, 2000, through Sept. 26, 2007. His behavior with two female inmates — identified in federal court documents as E.R. and D.D. — prompted a federal investigation. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Terry Means sentenced Inametti to four years in federal prison and fined him $3,000 on two counts of sex abuse of an adult ward.
After the sentencing, Merritt filed the lawsuit on behalf of E.R., who is identified in the suit as Jane Doe.
The lawsuit names the Fort Worth Diocese, by and through Kevin W. Vann in his official capacity as bishop, his predecessors and successors, the Missionary Society of St. Paul, by and through its U.S. superior general, the Rev. Desmond Ohankwere, and the Rev. Vincent Bassie Inametti as defendants.
The Rev. Michael Olson, Fort Worth vicar general, acknowledged that a diocese attorney had been served with the lawsuit. No damages or dollar amounts are specified in the lawsuit.
"We'll leave that up to the jury," Merritt said.
In the criminal case, federal prosecutors described Inametti's sexual encounter with E.R. this way: "In or about June or July 2006, at the Bureau of Prisons facility, FMC Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas, Inametti summoned inmate E.R. to a classroom in the chapel, where defendant Inametti, with the intent to arouse and gratify his sexual desire, engaged in a sexual act with E.R."
As part of Inametti's defense in the federal criminal case, two witnesses took the stand Monday, including one current inmate. The witnesses described E.R. as being in love with Inametti and also serving in the chaplain's office almost "like a personal secretary." When E.R. discovered that Inametti was having sex with another inmate, D.D., it put her in a jealous rage, the witness said.
The lawsuit gives a more violent account:
"Plaintiff Jane Doe was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family. ... Plaintiff had been taught to hold its clergy and hierarchy in great trust, confidence, reverence and respect and to obey and to rely, without question, upon the secular counseling and spiritual guidance of their priests, bishops and superiors."
And later, "Inametti initiated a course of conduct with Doe that included emotional and physical abuse and eventually sexual assault: specifically, Jane Doe discovered that Inametti was having inappropriate sexual contact with at least one inmate (D.D.). She confronted Inametti with this information. In response, Inametti threatened Doe with her life if she told anyone about the sexual contact she had discovered. His emotional abuse of Doe then escalated to physical abuse against her, including, but not limited to, his pulling her hair, stomping her foot, choking her by the neck with his hands and injuring her shoulder with his fists.
"In approximately June or July 2006, Inametti summoned inmate Doe to a classroom in the chapel at Carswell. There he raped her. Additional sexual assaults occurred in October 2006 and December 2006. All of these incidences of sexual assault by Inametti upon Jane Doe were against her will and without her consent."
In sentencing Inametti on Monday, Means described Inametti's actions as "rape" and "sodomy."
Death threats and secrets?
Inametti is further accused in the lawsuit of threatening to kill Doe and put a "curse" on her family if she revealed information about the sexual assault on her and others. He is also accused of bragging that he was "divine" and "untouchable."
Even after March 2007, when the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General was looking into sexual abuse allegations, Inametti continued to abuse the defendant, according to the lawsuit. "He slapped her face with open hand, struck her shoulder with clenched fists and threatened to kill her if she told the Inspector General special agents about his sexual misconduct with her or the other inmates."
According to the lawsuit, it wasn't the first time Inametti tried to quash a controversy.
While assigned to Our Lady, Star of the Sea parish in Houston, Inametti allegedly took sexual advantage of a female parishioner identified as W.L. He "pushed her onto the floor and forced himself on her sexually. Inametti then told the vulnerable woman not to tell anyone. She became pregnant that day," the lawsuit says.
Inametti allegedly told her she was no longer welcome at his church.
On Feb. 19, the woman identified as D.D. filed a federal prisoner civil rights complaint alleging that FMC Carswell failed to protect her against the sexual abuse of Inametti. It asks for $5 million in damages and $5 million in punitive damages. On April 10, U.S. District Judge John McBryde dismissed claims against the Fort Worth Diocese and the Missionary Society of St. Paul, saying her complaint failed to state a cause of action against those defendants.
On Tuesday, Inametti's attorney, Michael P. Heiskell, filed a notice of appeal of the conviction and sentence in the federal criminal case with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
BRYON OKADA, 817-390-7752 firstname.lastname@example.org
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