Defense Rests in Yakima Diocese Sex-abuse Trial
By Donald W. Meyers
March 21, 2014
The Diocese of Yakima concluded its defense in U.S. District Court on Thursday in a $3.1 million sex-abuse case filed by a former Zillah man.
Attorneys for the man, identified in court papers as John Doe, and the diocese will present closing arguments sometime in April, when their schedules can be coordinated with Judge Edward Shea, who heard the nonjury trial over the past two weeks.
Doe alleges that the diocese did not properly check Deacon Aaron Ramirez’s background before accepting him as a candidate for the priesthood in 1999. Doe also argues that the diocese failed to properly supervise Ramirez when he worked at Resurrection Catholic Church in Zillah.
Doe, in court papers, says Ramirez invited him to a trailer at the parish on July 29, 1999, for guitar lessons. Doe, who was 17 at the time, says that Ramirez gave him alcohol and repeatedly raped him.
Ramirez left for Mexico shortly after the incident and has never returned to the United States.
The diocese, through its attorney Ted Buck, contends that Doe’s account of the incident is inconsistent, especially in the amount of detail Doe says he remembered about what took place after the drinking.
Francisco Maltos, a social worker with the Casey Family Foundation, testified in court Thursday that Doe told him the day after the incident that he remembered getting drunk at the trailer, passing out and waking up naked in bed next to Ramirez.
“He wanted to talk about it, but it was difficult,” Maltos said, recalling the conversation he had with Doe at Zillah High School, where he met with Doe on July 30, 1999. “I listened and he told me about it.”
Zillah police Chief Dave Simmons, who was the investigating officer on Doe’s case at the time, said Doe’s account led him to suspect that Doe might have been raped. Simmons said he sent Doe to the hospital in Toppenish with a rape kit for an examination, but no evidence was collected. Simmons said hospital staff told him that Doe said nothing happened, so they didn’t conduct the examination.
On cross examination, Simmons said it was not unusual for rape victims to back out of a rape exam, which he said can be invasive. Nor is it unheard of for a rape victim to refuse to talk about what happened to them, as Doe did, Simmons said.
Maltos, who said he worked with Doe since he was 6 yearas old, said he thought Doe was honest in his report of what happened in the trailer.
Doe’s attorneys contend the incident caused Doe to spiral downward into alcoholism and suicide attempts.
But Buck pointed out that Maltos wrote reports months after the incident showing that Doe appeared to be putting the incident behind him with the support of his foster family and was making plans for his future.
Maltos said that at the time, Doe didn’t want to talk about the incident, which Maltos believes was still weighing on him.
“He did the best he could, I feel, to get back into his routine,” Maltos said. “But that didn’t mean he forgot about his being taken advantage of.”