Woman Suing Ex-Priest Told to Reveal Her Name

By William Cooper, Jr.
Palm Beach Post
June 27, 2003

West Palm Beach - A local woman suing a former Catholic priest for alleged sexual battery can no longer pursue the case using a legal veil of anonymity by calling herself "Jane Doe," a circuit judge ruled Thursday.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge William Berger sided with defense attorneys representing former priest Charles Cassetta.

They and the Archdiocese of Miami argued that Cassetta would not have an adequate defense if the woman remained anonymous.

Berger's ruling gives the woman 30 days to make her identity public or his order dismissing the civil case stands.

Cassetta's attorney, David Schertler, was pleased with Berger's ruling, saying there was no compelling evidence to support concealing her identity.

"We feel that the decision is appropriate and essential for Mr. Cassetta to be able to defend himself against allegations that are over 30 years old," Schertler said.

The woman, a student at Cardinal Newman High School at the time of the alleged assaults, recently remembered the sexual battery, which occurred in the early 1970s, her attorney said.

"We respectfully disagree with Judge Berger," said Ronald Weil, the woman's attorney.

Weil wasn't ready to say whether Jane Doe would reveal her identity. They are exploring all options, he said.

In an attempt to extend an olive branch, Jane Doe's real name was disclosed to the Archdiocese of Miami on the condition that it didn't appear in court records. Weil said he offered the same deal to Cassetta's attorneys, but they declined.

In March, Cassetta's attorneys asked the court to make Jane Doe's name public.

A month later, Circuit Judge Diana Lewis recused herself from the case because her father, former state Sen. Phil Lewis, has served on several Catholic church boards. They included the Diocese of Palm Beach's finance committee and chairing a lay committee that examined confidential church records in an investigation of allegations of sexual abuse committed by priests.

Berger was randomly assigned to the case.

Until then, the woman said she had repressed any memory of the attacks, which she alleges happened in Cardinal Newman's rectory at least 10 times between 1971 and 1972.

Cassetta, a teacher at Cardinal Newman at the time, has denied her allegations.

He left the priesthood several years ago, got married and is a successful businessman, according to his attorney.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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