Diocese Wants Change of Venue in Priest Molestation Cases
January 30, 1999
BRIDGEPORT - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport says there are too many practicing Catholics in the region to form impartial juries for lawsuits filed by 27 people who say they were molested by priests.
Lawyers for the diocese on Friday asked a Superior Court judge to move the trials from Bridgeport to New Haven. They say fair trials are impossible in Bridgeport because 40 percent of the prospective jurors - or two of five - would be practicing Catholics.
Diocesan spokesman Tom Drohan said practicing Catholics would be inclined to think that a verdict against the priests might mean their individual parish could be financially affected.
He said moving the cases to New Haven would fix the problem because the jurors would be affiliated with the Archdiocese of Hartford.
"We want to assure that both sides get a fair verdict," he said.
But Douglas Mahoney, one of three lawyers representing 27 people who claim that they were sexually assaulted by four current and former priests in the Bridgeport diocese, says there is a different reason for request to move the trial.
"They are trying to prevent people from Bridgeport from learning how the diocese hid years of claims that children were being abused by priests," he said. "We believe the cases can get a fair trial here."
Judge David W. Skolnick said he would issue his decision on the motion soon.
The first trial is scheduled to begin in June.
According to the lawsuits, the alleged sexual assaults date back to the late 1960s when the plaintiffs were either altar boys or members of diocesan youth organizations.
Sixteen cases involve the Rev. Raymond Pcolka; four cases involve the Rev. Charles Carr; five involve the late Rev. Joseph Gorecki; and two involve the Rev. Martin Federici.
The suits all claim that diocesan officials knew the priests were molesting children and covered up the abuse by transferring the priests to different parishes.
The diocese previously lost a $ 1 million lawsuit to a Wisconsin man who said he was molested by a Stamford priest in the 1960s. The diocese has also paid more than $ 450,000 in settlements to people who claimed they were molested by diocesan priests.
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