Lawyers Seek Settlement in Abuse Suits against Guam Archbishop
By Jerick Sablan
USA Today Network
November 15, 2017
|Archbishop Anthony Apuron, in magenta, is surrounded by clergy and parishioners during the annual Santa Marian Kamalen procession in Hagatna on Dec. 8, 2015.|
A settlement could be reached soon in four sexual abuse cases filed last year against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron in Guam district court.
During a hearing Wednesday on a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, Apuron’s attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje, and attorneys representing the accusers asked Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to delay her decision until Dec. 31 to give them time to work on a possible settlement.
Former altar boys Walter Denton, Roy Quintanilla, Roland Sandia and the family of deceased former altar boy Joseph “Sonny” Quinata sued Apuron last fall, accusing him of molesting and/or raping the boys in the late 1970s, when he was a parish priest. All came forward in summer 2016 to make public accusations against Apuron, who has denied the allegations. (Sondia is an employee of the Pacific Daily News.)
Apuron was removed from the island in June 2016 to undergo a Vatican trial in connection with the accusations, but details of the trial or its outcome remain unknown.
The four lawsuits were filed after Guam passed a law in September 2016 retroactively lifting the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. To date, 143 lawsuits against 15 priests and others on Guam have been filed in district or federal court.
Terlaje argued that the cases against Apuron should be dismissed because they involve events alleged to have happened more than 40 years ago. Those who could defend Apuron have either lost their memories, died, or cannot be found, she said.
Terlaje also questioned why plaintiffs didn’t take the opportunity to sue Apuron years ago. “They had multiple opportunities,” she said.
Gregory Nicolaysen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued that the court needs to consider who is being accused. People who wield enormous power, like Apuron, can intimidate victims into silence, he said.
“To challenge him, there would be backlash, huge emotional discomfort. It takes a lot of courage to do it,” Nicolaysen said.
Lawyers involved in all of the lawsuits are pursuing mediation to settle the cases out of court. Mediation talks are set for March.
Meanwhile, additional lawsuits are still being filed, seeking upwards of $943 million in total. The 143rd lawsuit, filed Tuesday, accuses former Guam priest Antonio Cruz, who died more than 30 years ago, of sexually abusing him in 1974. A man identified only by the initials “L.J.G.” states in the lawsuit that Cruz, a friend of his parents, abused him several times at his family's home.
Tuesday's lawsuit is the 10th naming Cruz. Also on Tuesday, former Guam priest Raymond Cepeda, 66, who is accused in 11 different lawsuits alleging abuses from 1974 to 1999, died following years of illness, according to Terlaje.