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  Lincoln Monsignor Won't Face Charges / Molestation Claims Mya Drive Civil Suit

By Jim Stahly Jr
The Pantagraph [Bloomington, IL]
May 21, 1998

Lincoln - Criminal charges will not be filed against a retired monsignor from Holy Family Church in connection with accusations that he molested youths during the past 10 to 15 years.

The announcement Wednesday by Logan County State's Attorney William Workman came five months after a complaint by a minor to the state Department of Children and Family Services. It effectively ends the possibility of criminal prosecution of the Rev. Norman Goodman.

However, a lawsuit being contemplated by 13 or 14 people who claim to be Goodman's victims remains a possibility, said their attorney. While an Illinois state police investigation involved 10 people - whose names were provided by the group contemplating the lawsuit - only the minor's case was the focus of the probe, said Workman.

The other cases, because of elapsed time and the ages of the alleged victims, are outside the statute of limitations, he said.

"Review of the minor's statements that have been made over the period of this investigation reveal inconsistencies within those statements," said Workman, reading from a prepared statement. "Although certain minor inconsistencies may be understandable given that the minor is relating incidents that occurred several years after the fact, the inconsistencies in this case would seriously hamper any criminal prosecution."

But while the evidence may not support a criminal case, attorney Frederic Nessler, who represents the minor's family in the criminal and civil matters, said the proposed civil case would be unaffected.

"I think it's really irrelevant to us," said Nessler, noting that while a criminal case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, civil litigation involves a lower standard - a "preponderance" of the evidence.

Indeed, while the alleged victim's family was upset, the ruling was almost expected, said Nessler. "We had no confidence that the state's attorney would ever charge from the beginning," he said.

Those in Goodman's camp, meanwhile, found the decision highly significant.

"Basically, I've been in touch with the monsignor all morning, and he's tremendously relieved he's vindicated," said Goodman's attorney, Drew Parker of Peoria. He added that the priest continues to deny all wrongdoing. "I believe the civil litigation has been dealt quite a blow by the results of this professional investigation."

Kate Kenny, director of communications for the Peoria Diocese, agreed.

"The state's attorney's decision confirms our own reading of the facts of this case ... and our own findings of the lack of any evidence linking Monsignor Goodman to any criminal behavior," she said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

Goodman, who declined to be interviewed by officials investigating the charges, was unavailable for comment.

Specific allegations accused Goodman of molesting the boy at St. Mary's Church in Atlanta. But a team of attorneys including Nessler and James Bendell of Washington are representing more than a dozen others who claim to have been molested by the pastor during his nearly 35-year tenure.

Workman declined to detail the abuse or to give the date of the alleged incident, beyond saying it took place several years ago. However, the minor, who is still younger than 18, was 7 or 8 years old at the time, he said. Previous reports had identified the minor as 15.

Workman also declined to detail the inconsistencies in the youth's statements. But he said comments from the other 10 alleged victims didn't help.

"The statements of the older victims, which are the basis of the civil allegations, are too dissimilar to assist or corroborate the allegations in the criminal case. The victims were much older at the time of the alleged abuse and the type of abuse alleged was generally of a different nature," Workman said.

Nessler said his group's investigation of the incidents continues and should be completed within the next month. Another prospective victim has come forth in the past month, he said, and a demand for settlement from the Peoria Diocese likely would be made within the next 45 days.

Allegations against Goodman surfaced in December when a team of attorneys representing the alleged victims placed an advertisement in the Lincoln newspaper. It asked people to come forward if they had information about "sexual misconduct involving minors, altar boys or former altar boys."

Nessler and Bendell claim the diocese was notified of abuse by Goodman in 1984 and again in 1989, but did not act. Diocese officials, however, say there is no record of such complaints.

But Parker said whatever their decision, Goodman is ready for a fight.

"By no means would we anticipate that would ever be resolved short of a trial, because Monsignor Goodman continues to deny all the allegations," Parker said.

 
 

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