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  2nd Diocese Adds $1.2M to Settlement for Molesting

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
June 3, 2009

http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/295496

A former Yuma man who was molested by a Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson priest has received an additional $1.2 million settlement.

The Diocese of Monterey in California agreed last week to pay the money to the 29-year-old man, who says he endured sexual abuse by two Catholic priests the Rev. Juan Guillen, who is in an Arizona state prison for child molestation, and the Rev. John Velez, whose whereabouts are unknown.

The man, now living in Salinas and working in sports promotion, had already received a settlement of $600,000 under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson's bankruptcy reorganization, which was completed in 2005.

The latest award brings his total settlement money to $1.8 million minus legal fees, which are typically 25 percent to 40 percent of the settlement amount.

"The victim would have gone to trial but wanted to protect his family from the publicity," said Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who was one of the young man's lawyers.

"All he wants to do is take care of his family. He's been supporting his mother, two sisters and his brother.

"His father left the family he blamed the mother for trusting the priest."

The young man is part of a devout Catholic family that moved between Yuma and Salinas while he was growing up.

The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing, though the Monterey bishop Richard Garcia is expected to meet privately with both the victim and his family, said San Francisco attorney Paul Gaspari, who settled the case on behalf of the diocese.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in 2003. The suit says the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey did not have any rules requiring screening or background checks before granting faculties to new priests, and that it had no rules in effect to protect minors from abuse.

Gaspari stressed that Velez worked in the diocese for a brief period of time in 1991 as a visiting priest from Mexico.

That's when Cadigan says he molested the young man, who was then a boy of 12.

The lawsuit says Velez spent a lot of unsupervised time with the boy, taking him on trips to other parishes and taking him into bedrooms in the rectories of those parishes, where he molested the child.

Guillen was never employed by the Monterey diocese, though he said Mass at a Monterey church on at least one occasion, Gaspari said.

The young man's lawsuit says Guillen was frequently a visiting priest at Christ the King Catholic Church in Salinas during 1991 and 1992, when the young man was an altar boy there.

The suit also says Guillen did not have permission from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson to be in Monterey.

Cadigan said the young man was repeatedly raped by Guillen from age 8 to age 15.

The young man was also the first person to file a complaint about Guillen and was subsequently ostracized by other parishioners at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Yuma, Cadigan said. Yuma is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.

Guillen eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child molestation. He originally faced 13 felony charges related to four victims all young men from Spanish-speaking families that attended Immaculate Conception.

At his sentencing he apologized to the victims, said he needed help and said he would do everything in his power "to keep this from happening again."

According to police reports, Guillen earned the trust of families, who allowed the priest to spend time with their sons. Although he lived in the church rectory, Guillen also owned a trailer in Yuma and often took his young victims there, plying them with frozen treats and video games, police reports say.

Cadigan said the young man has suffered relationship problems and has never been able to tell any of his girlfriends about what happened. But she said the settlement has given him some peace of mind.

"He told me he'd had his first good night's sleep in years," she said.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or sinnes@azstarnet.com.

 
 

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