|Convicted Rapist Files Suit Alleging Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priest
By Daniel Tepfer
September 9, 2010
A convicted rapist claims his life was ruined after he was molested by a Roman Catholic priest in Fairfield in the 1970s.
Roger Bart Sherwood, 46, who was convicted in 1988 of raping a young woman at St. Margaret's Shrine, filed suit Wednesday in Superior Court against the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese and former priest Martin Federici claiming Federici sexually assaulted him on numerous occasions at both Our Lady of Assumption Church and School on Stratfield Road in Fairfield.
The diocese suspended Federici as a priest in 1996 after a number of men sued the diocese claiming they had been molested by Federici since the 1970s. Many of those claims were included in a $15 million settlement made to victims of abuse in 2001.
Federici agreed to leave the priesthood in 2003. Several recent lawsuits claim Federici molested boys while at St. Teresa Church in Trumbull.
Sherwood's lawsuit claims Federici first began molesting him in 1973 when Sherwood was a student at Our Lady of Assumption School.
In 1975, Sherwood began serving as an altar boy in the church. During that time, the suit states Federici, who was in charge of the altar boys, began spending time alone with Sherwood and would expose his genitals to him.
The lawsuit continues that in 1976-77 Federici sexually abused Sherwood on numerous occasions including kissing him and performing oral sex on him. The suit states that the abuse worsened until Sherwood was forced to transfer to another school.
The suit claims, as a result of Federici's abuse, Sherwood suffered physical and lasting and severe emotional injury.
"The abuse has adversely impacted the plaintiff's ability to lead a peaceful and productive life for himself and his family, necessitating the need for psychological care and counseling," the lawsuit states.
Sherwood's lawyer, James Hall, declined comment on the lawsuit.
Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace said the diocese did not learn about Sherwood's claim of alleged abuse until last year when he contacted the diocese from prison seeking a monetary settlement. "The Diocese of Bridgeport was only recently served with the summons and complaint from Mr. Sherwood?s attorney and has not had the opportunity to fully investigate and review the allegations. The allegations in the complaint date back to 1973, more than 37 years ago. At that time, the diocese had no knowledge of any incident involving Roger Sherwood."
Sherwood, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., grew up the second youngest in a 10-member family headed by former Fairfield state Rep. Robert Sherwood. When Sherwood was a baby his family was touring the U.S. and Canada billed as "America's Von Trapp family," performing songs from the "The Sound of Music."
Sherwood excelled in both baseball and football at Andrew Warde High School and in 1982 won a scholarship to prestigious St. Lawrence College in Canton, N.Y. He was arrested while in college for exposing himself.
In the early morning hours of July 25, 1986, a young couple was sitting in a car by the Park Avenue shrine when Sherwood shoved a gun through the passenger window into the woman's face.
Sherwood raped the woman in the car and then dragged her outside. He then ordered her boyfriend to submit to a sexual assault, but when Sherwood turned his attention to the woman, the man drove off.
Sherwood later confessed to the crime. During a trial he admitted to the attack, but claimed he did it after getting "an uncontrollable urge." A psychiatrist hired by the defense claimed Sherwood suffered from a mental disease or defect.
Sherwood was subsequently convicted of first-degree sexual assault with a deadly weapon, third-degree sexual assault, unlawful restraint and attempted first-degree sexual assault.
New Haven lawyer, Hugh Keefe, who represented Sherwood during the trial, expressed surprise at his former client's lawsuit, but declined comment. Keefe currently represents a priest who has been accused of molesting a boy in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
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