|Monterey Diocese Settles Abuse Case for $1.2 Million
By Virginia Hennessey
May 30, 2009
The Diocese of Monterey agreed Friday to pay a former Salinas man $1.2 million for years of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of two priests.
Bishop Richard Garcia will meet with the man and his family to formally apologize for the diocese's actions. The settlement, which does not include a confidentiality clause, heads off a trial that was set to start Monday.
The victim's attorney, John Manley of Newport Beach, said his client got what he set out to obtain.
"What he always wanted was an apology and for the documents to come out," Manley said, referring to the diocese's agreement to release all records and depositions that do not reveal the victim's identity.
Manley said the documents will reveal the diocese "has blood on its hands." Because church leaders failed to notify local law enforcement when they learned the boy was assaulted, he said, one of his abusers went on to molest the boy's brother and others.
The priest, the Rev. Juan Guillen, is serving a 10-year sentence in Arizona for the subsequent molestations. The other priest, the Rev. John Velez, is believed to be serving the church in Latin America.
Manley said his client, who is 29, accepted the deal Friday so his mother would not have to testify at what promised to be an arduous and painful trial.
"It's all about his mom," said Manley, adding that the year after "John Doe" filed his lawsuit against the dioceses of Monterey and Tucson, Ariz., he donated a portion of his liver to save his mother's life.
The woman, a devout Catholic who migrated between Salinas and Yuma, Ariz., entrusted her son to priests in both parishes.
According to court records, Guillen began molesting the boy in Arizona shortly after he immigrated to the United States as an 8-year-old in 1988. After the boy's family moved to Salinas, Guillen continued to visit the family. He was so trusted, he was allowed to sleep in the boy's bed.
Velez began molesting the boy in 1991, when Velez was assigned to St. Mary of the Nativity Catholic Church in Salinas. Ironically, it was Guillen who reported Velez to local church officials after the boy told him about Velez's abuse.
Monsignor Charles Fatooh, who was heading the Monterey diocese at the time, admitted in a pretrial deposition that neither he nor anyone else in the diocese did anything to alert police, protect the boy or find out if there were other victims.
Instead, he said, he called the diocese's attorney, Albert Ham. According to court documents, Ham and Father Gregory Sandman, then pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity Church, met with the victim's mother and told her the abuse was the "sort of thing that happens to a lot of kids" and "not a big deal." She said they turned down her request for money to pay for her son's counseling.
Fatooh removed Velez from the parish and placed him in a retreat house in San Juan Bautista, where he tried to commit suicide. After he recuperated at the Catholic-owned Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, he was turned over to officials from the Marist order of Mexico and ushered out of the country.
Fatooh was later forced to resign after it was reported that another suspected pedophile priest, Robert Trupia, was living in his Maryland condominium. Fatooh and now-retired Bishop Sylvester Ryan hired Trupia to do canon law work in the diocese while he was under investigation for molestations in Arizona.
Fatooh is now a parish priest in Cayucos.
Friday's settlement was negotiated for the diocese by San Francisco attorney Paul Gaspari. While agreeing that the diocese would pay John Doe and apologize to him and his family, he reiterated a contention made in an op-ed piece in Friday's Herald.
"No priest with a credible allegation of sexual misconduct is in ministry in the diocese," he said.
The diocese promptly suspended the sacramental duties of the Rev. Antonio Cortes in April when he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy. Cortes, pastor of St. Mary of the Nativity, is also charged with possessing child pornography and faces a preliminary hearing next week.
Gaspari told Judge Lydia Villarreal on Friday he agreed to open most of the documents and depositions in the case, with the exception of records that could identify the victim.
Dressed in jeans and a black linen blazer, John Doe left the courthouse without comment Friday after embracing his attorneys and shaking hands with Gaspari.
Manley said he was "really happy" for his client, who received a $600,000 settlement from the bankrupt Diocese of Tucson. His total settlement of $1.8 million is well over the average $1.4 million paid out by the church to thousands of other clergy-abuse victims since 2003, he said.
"He's a courageous boy," Manley said. "He hung in there for six years and took the best shots the oldest multinational entity in the world could give him, and he's still standing."
Susan Mayer, general counsel for the diocese, referred requests for comment to the diocese spokesman, Warren Hoy. He did not respond to calls late Friday.
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or email@example.com
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