|Settlement in Roncalli Suit Expected Today
Students from the Former Pueblo School Filed Suits Stemming from Actions of a Former Teacher.
By Patrick Malone
October 30, 2008
A press conference is scheduled today to announce the $4 million settlement of 23 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of students at Roncalli High School by a clergyman teacher.
The settlements average $173,913 per plaintiff, however it has not been announced whether each accuser will get an equal share of the sum or what portion will be applied to their legal fees.
The plaintiffs accused Brother William Mueller, a music and religion teacher at Roncalli while it was open from 1966-1971, of subduing them with ether under the guise of conducting psychological experiments. While they were helpless, the men contend they were molested and raped.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, an organization that tracks sexual abuse by clergy, rated Mueller among the 10 most active known abusers of children in America, according to President David Clohessy. Accusations of abuse dogged Mueller at every stop in his career with the Society of Mary religious order, also known as The Marianists, but didn't come to light for decades. Mueller's Marianist supervisors were aware of complaints about inappropriate behavior with students at every school where he had been assigned, dating back to 1958, when he was studying toward acceptance into the order, according to court records. Along with the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo and Mueller, the Marianists were named as defendants in the Roncalli suits. The amount that each defendant will contribute to the settlement has not been announced.
In the course of investigating the complaints against Mueller in Pueblo, The Pueblo Chieftain learned that 40 accusers have filed lawsuits or leveled complaints with police in Colorado, Missouri and Texas, where Mueller had been assigned at various times in his Marianist career.
"We view this settlement as a recognition that a horrible injustice was perpetrated on innocent children by a trusted authority figure and that it could have been prevented," Adam Horowitz, the Miami-based lawyer for the 23 Pueblo plaintiffs, said in a written statement.
The Marianists also settled a suit with a St. Louis man earlier this year over sexual abuse allegations against Mueller. The order agreed to pay Bryan Bacon $160,000. Bacon attended St. John Vianney High School in St. Louis, where Mueller was assigned during the mid-1980s.
Mueller voluntarily left the Marianist order in 1986. Twice before that Marianist leaders had ordered Mueller to get treatment from the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, N.M., where priests plagued by various problems were counseled.
Even after Mueller's two stints in treatment for inappropriate behavior with teenage boys, the Marianists continued to place him in all-boys high schools.
Spokesmen for the diocese of Pueblo and the Marianists said on Wednesday that they would issue statements about the settlement when it was finalized, but not until then.
A 24th Pueblo plaintiff still has a suit pending against the diocese over allegations of abuse by Mueller, but his claim has come under scrutiny after an audio recording surfaced that hints he may have opportunistically fabricated the accusations.
Thomas Monroe, who attended Roncalli at the same time as the other plaintiffs, was dropped as a client by the firm of Herman & Mermelstein, which reached settlement agreements for the other 23 plaintiffs.
In a recorded phone conversation with his former wife, Monroe alluded that he had contrived his accusations against Mueller, and that he would gain a fortune from his suit while Mueller's true victims would get only embarrassment for their trouble.
Monroe was one of just a few Roncalli plaintiffs who filed suits by name. Most are identified in court records either as "John Doe" or by their initials.
Court records show that Pueblo lawyer Max Wilson now represents Monroe. His lawsuit remains active in district court. Just this week, the diocese filed a motion seeking dismissal of Monroe's suit based on Colorado's statute of limitations, which normally ends all civil claims of sex abuse when the accuser reaches age 33.
The other Roncalli plaintiffs sidestepped the statute of limitations when their lawyers challenged the issue all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, which ruled that the statute of limitations did not apply because the defendants may have known of accusations against Mueller for years.
Some Roncalli plaintiffs claim they told a diocesan priest at the school that Mueller had abused them, but even Marianist leaders have acknowledged in depositions that most local diocese were hands-off in the day-to-day operations of the schools run by the religious order, including Roncalli.
Mueller is reportedly living in the San Antonio area.
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