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  Lawsuit

By Patty Machelor
Tucson Citizen
December 12, 2001

A 10th lawsuit involving allegations of sexual molestation of a boy by a former local priest has been filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Pima County Superior Court, indicates "Richard Roe" was a homeless youth on juvenile probation when he started working for the diocese under the supervision of Monsignor Robert C. Trupia.

While most of the alleged abuse in the other suits is said to have occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, the latest plaintiff alleges he was abused in the late 1980s.

Attorney Lynne Cadigan said her client began "spending the night" with Trupia in 1987 at the diocese's Regina Cleri Center on the East Side, and lived with Trupia in 1988-89.

"Trupia acted as (the) plaintiff's counselor, mentor, authority figure and employer, and coerced (him) into sex in exchange for his living arrangements, job and protection from authorities," Cadigan alleges in the lawsuit. She said she could not comment further.

The suits involve a total of 11 alleged victims from Tucson or Yuma, including two sets of parents named with their sons. None of the cases has been settled. In addition to Trupia, the lawsuits' allegations involve priests William T. Byrne, Pedro Luke and Michael J. Teta.

The first trial, involving plaintiff David D. Frei, is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Phoenix. Frei is a former altar boy at St. Francis Catholic Church in Yuma who claims he was sexually abused by Trupia during the 1970s.

Roe was reportedly 17 years old when the abuse started, which would have made him the oldest of the victims when the alleged abuses occurred.

Trupia's last known address is in Silver Springs, Md. Fred Allison, a spokesman for the 300,000-member diocese, would not confirm Trupia or Teta's whereabouts.

Teta and Trupia were removed as priests in the early 1990s but are appealing those decisions to the Vatican. They are still on the diocese payroll, receiving health benefits and monthly salaries while their cases are pending.

Byrne, who died in 1991, was a pastor at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, 1800 S. Kolb Road. Trupia, Luke and Teta also served at the East Side church.

In an October letter to parishioners, Bishop Manuel D. Moreno says Luke was a Canadian priest named Lucien Meunier de la Pierre. The Diocese suspended his "priestly faculties" in 1975, after child abuse allegations, the letter says. De la Pierre died in prison, where he was serving time for child abuse.

Allison said he could not comment on Monday's lawsuit because it has not yet been served to the diocese. He referred questions to the Diocese's website, www.diocese tucson.org, which contains Moreno's letter addressing the abuse allegations. In it, Moreno apologizes for any children who suffered abuse and for the actions of any church worker who failed to protect the children.

Seven of the suits involve claims of "recovered memory" in which the plaintiffs say they recently remembered events after repressing them for decades. Arizona law allows litigation in such cases and those involving severe trauma in which the statute of limitations would otherwise prevent them from being heard.

None of the plaintiffs is seeking a specific dollar amount. In a similar case, a California jury recently awarded a plaintiff more than $5 million.

 
 

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