2nd Lawsuit Alleges Sex Abuse by Lakeport Priest
By Glenda Anderson
August 22, 2013
A second civil lawsuit has been filed accusing a Lakeport Catholic priest, now deceased, of sexual molestation.
The lawsuit accuses the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa and St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Lake County of failing to protect a boy, then 16, from a known sexual predator.
"The Diocese of Santa Rosa possessed knowledge of numerous incidents of inappropriate sexual contact and conduct by Father Ted Oswald with minors" before the plaintiff was molested, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Sonoma County Superior Court.
In addition, the youth "essentially was being abused at the same time other people were mounting lawsuits" against Oswald, said Skye Daley, the plaintiff's attorney. Daley is part of an Irvine-based law firm that specializes in sexual abuse cases.
Diocese attorney Dan Galvin said Wednesday he would not comment because the diocese had not been served with the lawsuit.
The Santa Rosa diocese settled the earlier lawsuit, which alleged Oswald had molested two boys between 1988 and 1995, for $1.3 million in 2009 without admitting wrongdoing.
The newly filed lawsuit does not state an amount of potential damages. Daley said he wants to take the case to trial rather than settle.
The prior lawsuit was filed in early 2008 but was not made public until several months later, when Oswald was removed from his position as a priest at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Lakeport.
Oswald died in 2010 at the age of 65.
The new lawsuit alleges Oswald began molesting the plaintiff in 2007 after "grooming" the child through flattery and ingratiating himself to the child's parents. The first sexual incident occurred after he hired the boy to wash his motor home, according to the lawsuit.
Neither Lakeport police nor Lake County sheriff's officials were aware of any criminal complaints being filed in connection with the new case.
The lawsuit alleges the priest plied the boy with alcohol and groped him, both over and under his clothing. The alleged incidents occurred both at Oswald's home and the church office, according to the lawsuit.
The assaults have emotionally scarred the young man, according to the lawsuit. He now lives in Southern California and has difficulty interacting with others, including teachers and other people in authority, the lawsuit states.
The youth was an altar boy and a student at the parish school. He also participated in a youth group led by Oswald, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Oswald had been accused of sexual misconduct years before contacting the plaintiff. Those allegations included "incidents on and off the physical premises owned and operated by the Diocese of Santa Rosa where Father Ted Oswald would fondle children sexually and force them to play games from which he derived sexual gratification, well before Father Ted Oswald was assigned to St. Mary Immaculate Parish," the lawsuit states.
Oswald was assigned to St. Mary Immaculate for about 20 years before the first lawsuit was filed. He was ordained a priest in 1984, after which he was assigned to St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in Ukiah. He moved on to Lake County four years later.
Church representatives in 2008 said Oswald had not previously been accused of molestation.
In addition to being a priest, Oswald was a chaplain for the Lakeport Police Department and Lake County Sheriff's Office. He was a former police officer and a Vietnam veteran.
The lawsuit contends the diocese has a history of covering up priestly wrongdoing and states the parish may have violated state laws requiring that sexual misconduct be reported.
Oswald was the 17th priest in the diocese to have been accused of sexual molestation, church officials have said. They also have acknowledged paying nearly $25 million to an undisclosed number of people -- mostly preteen boys -- who asserted they were molested by at least six priests.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org