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  Priest Claims He Was Asleep during Alleged Sexual Assault

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 24, 1999

A Roman Catholic priest admits he shared a bed with an altar boy, but says he was asleep the whole time and cannot be guilty of sexually molesting the youth.

Rev. Walter Coleman said in documents filed with the court that on the nights he slept with the 11-year-old boy, he was asleep "at all times."

"I was not conscious of any such touching, and for that reason, I could not have consciously intended that alleged touching to have occurred for any purpose," Coleman stated.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has asked that a lawsuit filed by the boy, now 31, be dismissed based on Coleman's statement.

"This is a very strong example of a very weak case that the plaintiff's attorneys are putting forth to tie up court time and harass the diocese," diocese spokesman Tom Drohan said.

According to the lawsuit, filed in 1996, Coleman molested the boy from 1978-1980. Coleman, who was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in Bridgeport, owned a home with the boy's mother, land records show.

The plaintiff claims Coleman often baby-sat while his mother worked nights as a nurse and the two shared a bed. The lawsuit claims that several times the plaintiff awoke to find his hand in the priest's underwear or the priest's hand in his pajamas.

"It is disappointing that the Diocese of Bridgeport would add further insult to this young man by suggesting that the priest who abused him was sleeping on the more than six occasions on which the priest assaulted him," said the plaintiff's attorney, Douglas Mahoney.

No date has been set for a hearing. Coleman has retired from the diocese and is living in Florida.

There are 22 claims by other people still pending against five priests in the diocese. The alleged assaults date to the late 1960s when the plaintiffs were altar boys or members of diocesan youth groups. Sixteen cases involve the Rev. Raymond Pcolka.

Last year, the diocese admitted it had settled six abuse claims against priests since 1989.

The diocese last month settled for an undisclosed amount a lawsuit by a man who claimed he was molested by the Rev. Martin Federici 16 years ago.

The diocese is appealing a 1997 decision by a federal jury in New Haven, which ordered the diocese to pay $ 750,000 to a Wisconsin man who said he was sexually abused as a teen-ager by the Rev. Laurence Brett at St. Cecilia Church in Stamford. A judge later added $ 250,000 in punitive damages.

 
 

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