More Child Abuse Claims Leveled against Long-ago Jesuit High School Janitor Duo
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
July 3, 2020
Another man has come forward and added to claims of child molestation decades ago by janitors at Jesuit High School’s Mid-City campus.
The plaintiff, under a pseudonym, filed a lawsuit Thursday at Civil District Court demanding damages from Jesuit and the religious order that runs the school over abuse that he claims to have suffered at the hands of Gary Sanchez and the late Peter Modica.
The case comes about five months after the school and the order reached financial settlements with two other plaintiffs, one who claimed abuse by Modica and the other who alleged that both Modica and Sanchez molested him.
A Jesuit spokesman declined comment, citing a school policy against discussing pending litigation. He said the school is saddened “by any stories of abuse” and is committed to a process by which claimants can come forward.
Echoing earlier filings, the new suit said Modica and Sanchez used their campus access to prey on their victims. Modica worked at Jesuit even though he had pleaded guilty in 1963 to molesting boys at a Metairie playground he supervised. Sanchez had been charged with sexually abusing a girl around 1976 in a case whose outcome remains unknown.
Like prior plaintiffs, the new claimant says he didn’t attend Jesuit but lived nearby and would play in the school’s yard.
The plaintiff says he was roughly 9 — in 1974 — when Modica approached him, bearing treats. Eventually, Modica fondled the boy’s genitals and performed oral sex on him, the lawsuit said.
Sanchez introduced himself as a Modica co-worker a couple years later, ingratiating himself to the plaintiff through marijuana, beer and pornography. Sanchez eventually abused the boy as well.
New Orleans police detectives at one point did question him while investigating Sanchez. The plaintiff said he told a friend of Sanchez's abuse but denied it to the cops out of fear. Sanchez ended that case by pleading guilty to simple rape of another victim and received probation.
The plaintiff also found it odd he was never asked about Modica. The lawsuit claims that Modica was being protected by — and was friends with — the case’s lead investigator: Stanley Burkhardt, who has since been unmasked as a child abuser himself.
Last August, a news article about an abusive priest at the plaintiff’s high school stirred up memories, according to the suit. The next month, a newspaper article about the plaintiff who accused Modica and Sanchez of abusing him in the 1970s also caught his attention.
Though Modica had died, Sanchez was alive, the plaintiff realized. Sanchez was serving a 30-year prison sentence he received in 2003 after pleading guilty to attempting to rape a 5-year-old boy.
That convinced the plaintiff to come forward, and he hired attorneys John Denenea and Soren Gisleson, who represent numerous church abuse claimants.
Louisiana’s statutes of limitation generally prohibit plaintiffs from pursuing damages for long-ago harm. But the plaintiff’s lawsuit contends those should not apply because it wasn’t until September 2018 that Jesuit acknowledged settling sex abuse claims involving the school’s personnel.
That’s when Richard Windmann spoke out about how — while growing up near Jesuit — he was abused on campus in the mid-1970s by Modica and priest Neil Carr. The order ultimately acknowledged that Carr was one of a number of priests, teachers studying to become clergy, and religious brothers who faced credible child molestation allegations at the school.
Had Jesuit been transparent earlier, the plaintiff “would have been able to come forward much sooner,” the lawsuit argued.
Jesuit is not run by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which on May 1 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, halting several lawsuits against it.