New Molestation Lawsuit against Disgraced San Jose Priest
By Nico Savidge
Bay Area News Group
February 21, 2019
|Hernan Toro, 91, is on the of the 15 priests named Thursday by the Diocese of San Jose as credibly accused of abusing children during their time in the diocese. Toro is currently accused of molesting two girls between 2011 and 2015 and is in the Santa Clara jail. (California Megan’s Law Website)|
A former Roman Catholic priest and convicted sex offender is facing a civil suit filed by a minor who alleges that he repeatedly sexually assaulted her in her family’s home.
The lawsuit filed last week is the latest allegation against Hernan Toro, a 91-year-old former priest who was allowed to return to ministry in the 1980s despite the fact that he was a registered sex offender.
Toro, who retired in 1990, was also arrested in 2017 and charged with child molestation, but the criminal case is on hold, after doctors determined last year that the Toro was not competent to stand trial.
The civil suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court alleges that Toro molested the girl on five occasions from 2011 to 2016.
A complaint filed in the lawsuit states that at the time the girl was molested, her family was not aware that Toro was a convicted sex offender. Instead, according to the complaint, the family considered Toro “a close family friend,” who sometimes stayed overnight as a guest in their home.
The lawsuit alleges that during four of those visits, Toro entered the girl’s bedroom and touched her genitals. In a fifth instance, according to the lawsuit, Toro touched the girl while watching a movie with her in the family’s living room.
The girl said she did not report the assaults to her parents or to police because she feared Toro “would cause her more harm,” the complaint states. The girl is not identified in court documents, nor is her age specified.
The lawsuit accuses Toro of assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks unspecified damages
Prosecutors charged Toro in 2017 with six counts of committing lewd acts on a child, alleging that between 2011 to 2015 he abused two girls.
But the case was suspended after attorneys questioned Toro’s ability to stand trial. Deputy Santa Clara County District Attorney Rebekah Wise said Toro was sent to a state hospital for treatment in December, and is next scheduled to appear in court in early 2020, for a hearing to determine whether he is competent to continue with the case.
Wise declined to say whether the girl who filed the civil lawsuit against Toro is one of the victims in the criminal case.
Toro was among 15 priests the San Jose diocese identified last October as having been credibly accused of abusing children.
He was first convicted of sexual misconduct and registered as a sex offender in 1983 while working at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish in Alviso. Toro later worked at several parishes until he was permanently banned from the ministry when he retired.
Diocese spokeswoman Liz Sullivan said last fall that Toro was allowed to return in a “misguided attempt at rehabilitation” before the Catholic church changed its policies to better protect children.
The civil lawsuit does not name the diocese as a defendant, and does not directly criticize church officials. Court documents do not say how the girl’s family met Toro, or whether family members went to any of the churches where he worked.
Sullivan declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, but said, “We invite the family to reach out to the diocese, as we remain resolute in our commitment to assist victim/survivors in the healing process.”