John Doe’s Lawyers Conclude Sex-abuse Case with Bishop’s Testimony
By Donald W. Meyers
March 19, 2014
|Bishop Emeritus Carlos Sevilla|
Lawyers for a man suing the Diocese of Yakima rested their sex-abuse case in federal court Wednesday.
Lawyers for John Doe, as he is identified in court papers, concluded with testimony from Bishop Emeritus Carlos Sevilla, who presided over the diocese in 1999, when Doe says he was raped by Deacon Aaron Ramirez at a Zillah parish office.
The diocese opened its defense Wednesday in U.S. District Court with a psychiatrist who said that the emotional problems Doe’s attorneys say he suffers from were more likely caused by abuse endured when he was 5 rather than the incident with Ramirez.
Doe is suing the diocese, alleging it failed to properly screen Ramirez before accepting him as a priesthood candidate, and that church officials did not supervise Ramirez when he worked at Resurrection Catholic Church in Zillah.
Doe said in court papers that Ramirez invited him to a trailer at the church for guitar lessons July 29, 1999. But Doe, who was 17 at the time, said he was instead given alcohol and raped repeatedly.
Ramirez fled the country a few days later, returning to his native Mexico, and has never returned.
Sevilla testified Wednesday that it was always his intention that Ramirez turn himself in to police.
“The very first time I dealt with (Ramirez), I said he had to report himself to the police,” Sevilla told Judge Edward Shea Wednesday morning. “That has been my attitude constantly.”
Bryan Smith, Doe’s attorney, pointed out that in earlier pre-trial testimony, Sevilla said he didn’t want Ramirez arrested. A transcript shows Smith asked Sevilla if he didn’t want Ramirez to get arrested, and Sevilla replied, “No, I didn’t.”
“You read (the transcript) correctly, but you didn’t acknowledge the context of the conversation,” Sevilla shot back.
Smith also presented correspondence from Sevilla to Ramirez warning him not to come back to Yakima County because he might be arrested.
Sevilla said he was not warning Ramirez, but answering a question Ramirez asked.
Doe’s legal team also presented testimony from psychologist Randall Green, who said Doe was severely traumatized by the incident and drank to excess and tried to kill himself on multiple occasions as a result.
But the diocese countered with testimony from Russell Vandenbelt, a psychiatrist who examined Doe’s records and testimony.
Vandenbelt said Wednesday that past abuse Doe said he experienced, including being raped as a 5-year-old, would have been more damaging to him psychologically than the 1999 incident, when Doe was 17.
Vandenbelt testified that personality traits are fixed by the late teen years and are less likely to change because of a traumatic experience.
But Vito de la Cruz, one of Doe’s attorneys, challenged how Vandenbelt could make that assessment without talking to Doe.
De la Cruz said Green had spent nine hours with Doe and interviewed Doe’s foster sister, who is the mother of his child.