Diocese of Corpus Christi, Religious Order Failed to Protect Victim
By Fares Sabawi
July 20, 2016
A woman is suing the Diocese of Corpus Christi, a religious order and a former priest accused of sexual assault of a child in Bee County.
The lawsuit, filed July 12 in Nueces County on behalf of "Jane Doe 108," accuses Stephen Tarleton Dougherty of sexually assaulting her multiple times starting when she was 7 years old.
Dougherty, who could not be reached for comment, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2003, according to the lawsuit.
The 59-year-old was indicted by a Bee County grand jury in June on one count of sexual assault of a child, a first degree felony. The indictment references a December 2011 assault. Bee County District Attorney Jose Aliseda confirmed Dougherty was indicted but declined further comment.
The lawsuit names the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and Dougherty as defendants.
Diocese spokesman Marty Wind said the diocese had not been served with the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon. He declined to comment on the allegations and on Dougherty.
Calls seeking comment to a number listed for Dougherty were not returned Tuesday. A number listed for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity in Robstown, to which Dougherty once belonged, was disconnected. A woman who answered a phone listed for the society's Corpus Christi location said no one was available to comment Tuesday afternoon.
The plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit that Dougherty sexually assaulted her from 2005 until 2011. The lawsuit states the diocese and Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity "engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse by Dougherty and other Catholic clerics."
The plaintiff's attorney, Tahira Khan Merritt, said her client came forward in 2015 but declined to release further details about the case including how she initially met Dougherty citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
"The main reason our client came forward is to make sure other people are made aware of what happened to her," Merritt said. "We feel strongly there are other (victims)."
The plaintiff, who is now about 18, is seeking more than $1 million in monetary relief, according to the lawsuit.
Dougherty was arrested in Bexar County on suspicion of sexual assault of a child related to the indictment, Bexar County Jail officials said. He was released from the jail after his bail was set at $20,000, jail officials said.