|Three More Clergy Abuse Trials Looming
By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
May 27, 2008
The next three clergy abuse cases on tap for trial in Burlington involve claims of molestation by the Rev. Edward Paquette similar to allegations that led a jury to award $8.7 million in damages to a Paquette victim this month.
Diane Lavallee, clerk of Chittenden County Superior Court, said the three cases selected for a potential Aug. 5 trial start were picked because they had been on the docket the longest of the 22 priest sex-abuse cases pending at the court.
The oldest of the three cases — involving claims by a former Montpelier altar boy identified in court papers only as "John Doe" — will be tried first, unless it is resolved by August. If that case is resolved, one of the other two cases will take its place.
The future course of the ongoing Vermont clergy abuse litigation has been uncertain since a jury awarded an alleged Paquette victim, a former altar boy at Christ the King Church in Burlington, $8.7 million in damages after concluding the diocese engaged in negligent supervision by hiring and retaining Paquette, a known child molester.
Diocesan officials and lawyers complained afterward that the verdict posed a threat to church programs and parishes and vowed an appeal. They contend the case was filed too long after the incidents to justify a trial and the judge was wrong to let the jury award punitive damages in the matter.
Last week, diocesan lawyer David Cleary said in an interview that the church might ask the court to postpone any further clergy abuse trials pending the outcome of the appeal.
Lavallee said the trial schedule could be changed if lawyers for the state's Roman Catholic diocese and the alleged priest sexual abuse victims challenge it. Last week, however, no formal complaint with the plan had been filed with the court.
According to court papers, the individual suing as "John Doe" claims Paquette groped him at St. Augustine Church in Montpelier but also engaged in "more aggressive" sexual misconduct at Lake Elmore State Park in the mid-1970s.
"Plaintiff specifically recalls Paquette taking him on an outing to Lake Elmore," one court document alleged. "Once there, Paquette first assaulted him in the locker room as both disrobed to change into bathing suits. Plaintiff could see that Paquette was visibly aroused."
The document goes on to claim Paquette later grabbed the alleged victim while the two were swimming in the lake, fondled his genitals and attempted to penetrate him in some manner.
The other two cases involve claims by former altar boys at Christ the King Church in Burlington similar to ones that led to the $8.7 million verdict.
In one of the cases, a former altar boy alleged Paquette fondled him at the church 20 times. In the other case, a former altar boy contends he quit being an altar boy after being groped by Paquette two times.
All three said the alleged abuse had caused them troubles in their teenage and adult life. The Burlington Free Press does not publish the identities of alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
As in the other Paquette cases, only the diocese is listed as the defendant. Paquette, who was suspended from priestly duties by the diocese in 1978 after it received complaints about his conduct from Christ the King parents, is retired and lives in Westfield, Mass.
Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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