Pueblo Sex Abuse Case Settled

By Scott Harrison

October 31, 2008

[with video]

Pueblo Sexual Abuse Case Settled

PUEBLO - 16 residents will share in a $4 million settlement for sexual abuse they say they suffered 40 years ago from a Catholic teacher. The settlement was announced Thursday on the courthouse steps by a Miami-based attorney representing 23 victims.

The settlement ends a two-year lawsuit by the victims against the Pueblo Diocese and the Marianist order, connected to Brother William Mueller. The statute of limitations makes seeking a criminal prosecution difficult.

Victims say they were abused between 1966 and 1971 at the former Roncalli High School, which closed in 1971 and is now Roncalli Middle School. Mueller was a religious and music teacher who allegedly stunned teen males with a chemical and took them into soundproof band rooms so that no one could hear him, claiming he was performing experiments in trust and confidence.

Attorney Adam Horowitz says Catholic leaders were aware of the abuse and even knew Mueller had a history of abusing boys at other schools as far back as 1958, but no action was taken against him. The victims--now in their 40's, 50's and 60's--began reporting the abuse to law-enforcement authorities nearly three years ago, and found they shared similar experiences as a group.

According to Horowitz, some victims want to retain a relationship with the Catholic church, while others do not. He says some of the victims still require counseling from their abuse. Horowitz says he hopes the case will remind us that reports of sexual abuse always should be believed and acted upon.

The average payout to each victim is about $174,000. A St. Louis man settled for $160,000 earlier this year in a similar case. Another man in the Pueblo case has a pending lawsuit against the defendants, but allegations have surfaced that he may have lied about being abused.

Mueller has been accused by 40 people in all, and was never prosecuted for any charges. He's now retired and living in San Antonio, Texas. Pueblo Diocese Bishop Arthur Tafoya declined to be interviewed by NEWSCHANNEL 13 Thursday, but released the following statement:

"I am pleased to announce that a settlement has been reached in the lawsuits regarding the Diocese of Pueblo, the Marianist Province and 23 alumni of Roncalli High School. These suits were related to claims made against Brother William Mueller, a Marianist Brother.

It has been my goal to resolve these cases with hope of providing a sense of closure, compassion and justice to the men whose lives have been altered by their early contact with Brother Mueller. It was my honor to have met with each of these men, and I again offer to them and their families my apologies and regrets for everything that they have experienced.

I sincerely hope that this resolution will provide some peace for these men, and also for the Diocese of Pueblo, who have been affected. We continue to be concerned for the ongoing healing that must take place, and I can assure these men of my prayers, and welcome within our faith community as a beneficial step in their healing process."



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