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  SR Diocese, Former Priests Sued

By Guy Kovner
Press Democrat
July 3, 2003

Spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring criminal prosecution of decades-old child molestation cases, lawyers announced Wednesday three new lawsuits against the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese and two former priests.

The suits were filed on behalf of a 49-year-old Sacramento man and a 43-year-old Eureka man, neither of was were named, and a former Santa Rosa resident, Shelley Ann Randall, 52, of Los Angeles.

All of them allege they were molested as teenagers.

At a news conference outside the diocese headquarters, their lawyers said the civil lawsuits take on added importance in the wake of the Supreme Court decision last week.

"The decision of the Supreme Court conferred liberty on the perpetrators," attorney Larry Drivon of Stockton said. "It's up to us to effect justice."

In addition to the diocese, the lawsuits name former priests Don Kimball and Gary Timmons as defendants.

The victims' lawyers have said their cases could cost the Santa Rosa Diocese tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Church lawyers, however, said they may try to have the suits dismissed in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Kimball, who was sentenced to seven years in state prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl at a Healdsburg church rectory in 1981, is among the defendants whose cases are likely to be dismissed following the high court's rejection of a California law used to prosecute decades-old child abuse cases.

Timmons, who wasn't charged under the same law, served four years in prison for molesting boys and was released in 2000.

Both Kimball and Timmons have been defrocked and are no longer associated with the Santa Rosa Diocese.

Dan Galvin, the diocese's attorney, said he hadn't seen the new lawsuits and declined comment on the specifics of those cases.

The diocese now faces five sex-abuse claims under a state law that suspended the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits during 2003.

But given the Supreme Court ruling on criminal cases, Galvin said the diocese may challenge the constitutionality of the law. "It would certainly be considered," he said.

Drivon and his colleagues filed all five claims against the Santa Rosa Diocese and have more than 250 cases pending throughout California.

The Supreme Court's ruling last week had no impact on civil cases, said Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., another of the victims' lawyers.

Late last year, Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh and 11 other California bishops warned parishioners that lawsuits could drain resources from the church's spiritual and social missions.

The Santa Rosa Diocese, rocked by scandals since 1994, has paid $7.4 million to settle sex abuse claims to date.

The three new lawsuits accuse Kimball and Timmons of molesting the teenagers, and allege that diocese officials conspired to "misrepresent, conceal or fail to disclose" the priests' misconduct.

The Eureka man alleges that he was molested by both Kimball and Timmons between the ages of 9 and 14.

The Sacramento man says he was molested by Timmons between the ages of 12 and 14.

Randall, who opted against suing anonymously, which the law allows, claims she was molested by Kimball at age 15.

Bishop Walsh's spokeswoman, Deirdre Frontczak, said that Randall, who attended Ursuline High School and later taught there, faces jail time in an embezzlement case involving a Catholic school in Pasadena where she was principal.

Randall pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft by embezzlement and is scheduled to be sentenced in August to 230 days in county jail and to pay $20,000 in restitution, the Los Angeles district attorney said.

Randall said her decision to sue Kimball and the local diocese had "nothing to do" with the embezzlement complaint.

Randall said she was infuriated by the Supreme Court decision and wants others to come forward and force Kimball to face allegations in court.

"I want his name out there," she said.

Following her arrest in October for embezzlement from St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School, Randall accused the school's pastor, the Rev. Joseph Moniz, of sexual battery. Los Angeles prosecutors rejected the case for lack of evidence.

Randall said Wednesday she had complained about Moniz to church officials in early 2001 and went to police nearly two years later because the church had taken no action.

 
 

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