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  Diocese Settles Sex-Abuse Lawsuit
The Rev. Charles Michael Cikovic Pleaded Guilty in September 1993

By Juli Cragg Hilliard
Sarasota Herald-Tribune [Florida]
February 28, 1997

The Catholic Diocese of Venice has agreed to an out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit involving a priest who pleaded guilty in 1993 to having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl, an attorney says.

The Rev. Charles Michael Cikovic was removed from duties at Fort Myers' St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church after the accusations were made in February 1993.

He had been ordained in May 1986 by Bishop John Nevins, whose 10-county Diocese of Venice includes Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Lee counties. Cikovic was assigned to St. Joseph's Church in Bradenton until 1987, when he moved to St. Francis Xavier.

The girl told investigators that the sexual relationship took place at the priest's Fort Myers home, on cruise ships out of Miami and at motels in Venice and in Charlotte, Orange and Dade counties.

Cikovic pleaded guilty in September 1993 to three counts of sexual battery on a child and one count of lewd and lascivious acts on a child. He was sentenced to six months in jail and 20 years' probation.

A suit on behalf of the girl and her guardian was filed in February 1994. It was settled several months ago, Bruce L. Scheiner, the Fort Myers attorney who filed the suit, said Wednesday.

"It was resolved favorably to the young girl," Scheiner said.

He said that the diocese had made payment but that he could not reveal the amount.

The diocese had no comment Thursday on the suit's status or outcome.

Cikovic left the Lee County Jail in December, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

He is not working for the Diocese of Venice, said diocese spokeswoman Gail McGrath, and, "To the best of my knowledge, he's not working for any diocese or ministering as a priest anywhere."

She said that Cikovic has not undergone the canonical process of laicization, by which a cleric is returned to lay status, but that he has no assignment or permission to minister as a priest.

The bishop placed the Rev. Jeremiah Michael Spillane of Sarasota on administrative leave after Spillane was arrested Feb. 10 in Clearwater and charged with attempting to commit a lewd or lascivious act with a minor.

A police detective, posing as a 13-year-old boy, had corresponded by computer for about three weeks with Spillane, who was on staff at Sarasota's Incarnation Catholic Church.

The priest was arrested when he arrived for what was supposed to have been a sexual encounter with the boy.

Police said Spillane made a full admission.

He was released on bail.

CORRECTION-DATE: March 1, 1997

CORRECTION: * The Rev. Charles Michael Cikovic of Fort Myers, a Catholic priest who pleaded guilty in 1993 to a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl, left the Lee County Jail in December 1995, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Because of a reporter's error, the wrong date was published Friday.

 
 

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