Diary in Camden Clergy Sex-Abuse Case Recovered
By Jim Walsh
October 7, 2013
CAMDEN — A dispute over a journal kept by a man claiming to be a childhood victim of clergy abuse in Camden has taken a surprising turn.
It’s just not clear in what direction.
A lawyer for Mark Bryson, an Ohio man allegedly molested by a South Jersey priest more than 40 years ago, says a computer technician has recovered a digital journal previously deleted by Bryson.
“We were fortunate that ... we were able to retrieve our client’s journal in its entirety,” said attorney Adam Horowitz, who says the document supports Bryson’s case.
But a lawyer for the Diocese of Camden, William DeSantis, said the recovered journal “raises more questions than it answers.” He also said the document contradicts key statements previously made by Bryson.
Bryson’s lawsuit seeks damages from the diocese for alleged molestation by a former priest, Joseph Shannon, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cramer Hill. Bryson, born in 1961, contends the abuse occurred when he was a first-grader at the parish school.
The journal is significant because Bryson contends he repressed memories of the alleged abuse until February 2010, when he saw a man who resembled Shannon. In Bryson’s view, the two-year statute of limitations to file his suit began when those memories returned.
The diocese, which rejects the repressed-memory claim, contends the filing deadline passed decades ago — two years after Bryson’s 18th birthday.
Horowitz announced the journal’s recovery Tuesday in a letter to U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle. He said a data-recovery firm had begun efforts to retrieve the document one day earlier.
According to Horowitz, the journal “supports our position that Mark Bryson did not recall his childhood sexual abuse by Father Shannon until 2010.” He said the record “also chronicles the depths of our client’s depression following his memory recovery.”
DeSantis cited the deleted journal in a 30-page brief last month, saying Simandle should infer Bryson acted “out of a well-founded fear that the contents would harm him.”
The document’s recovery only bolsters that view, the attorney said in a letter to the judge Thursday. In that letter, DeSantis also noted the document surfaced one day after the judge said he was “inclined” to accept the diocese’s view.
DeSantis also noted the recovered diary was eight pages, while Bryson previously described it as “probably 200 pages.”
He also said entries in the recovered journal were made between March and July 2012, while Bryson previously said the document was written and deleted before he filed suit in January 2012.
The diocese’s attorney described the document’s recovery as “alchemy” and an “11th-hour production” that “should lead to an even stronger inference that the deleted journal included information that would have harmed (Bryson’s) case.”
In response, Horowitz said the retrieval effort began before Simandle expressed his view on the diocese’s argument.
“It is shameful of the diocese to accuse the victim of wrongdoing,” Horowitz added.
Shannon was removed from the ministry in 1990 and died last month at 87. He was previously accused in at least three lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct with children.
The diocese made payments to settle the suits but admitted no wrongdoing.