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  Diocese Settles Priest Sex Lawsuit

By Jennifer Garza
Sacramento Bee (California)
February 5, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has reached a second settlement involving Vincent Brady, a priest accused of sexual molestation.

The diocese has agreed to pay $349,000 to Illah Duplantis of Solano County. Now a schoolteacher in her 40s, Duplantis accused Brady of molesting her when he was pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Vallejo in the mid- to late-1970s.

In addition to the financial settlement reached three weeks ago, church officials agreed to pay for counseling for Duplantis' family for one year. They also promised not to speak publicly regarding the veracity of the allegations.

"My client is happy with how the Sacramento diocese addressed and handled the claim," said Phil Hiroshima, Duplantis' attorney. "Now she wants to move on with her life."

Diocesan officials said a settlement with Duplantis was appropriate.

"We met with Mr. Hiroshima ... and we were certainly willing to meet his client's needs," said James Sweeney, outside counsel for the diocese.

Diocesan officials did not admit liability in the agreement. Sweeney said Bishop William K. Weigand will meet privately with Duplantis "on a pastoral level."

In a lawsuit filed against Brady and the diocese in May 2003, Duplantis said the molestation began when she was in the eighth grade and lasted for several years. She stated that the resulting stress caused permanent health problems.

Brady was suspended by the diocese after Duplantis' complaint. He later was removed from active ministry but still is living in the Sacramento area. Brady has denied the accusations.

While Duplantis settled with the diocese, she dismissed her complaint against the priest. Hiroshima said his client did this because Brady is insolvent. "It would have been a hollow victory ... I'm not going to collect any money from him," the lawyer said.

Brady's attorney was satisfied with the outcome, too.

"The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her claims against my client. She had the option of pursuing them and she chose not to," said attorney Nancy Sheehan.

The diocese previously settled another lawsuit against Brady. In 1999, Brady was accused of molesting Susan Hoey-Lees from the time she was 11 years old until she was 16. Hoey-Lees sued the diocese and received a $350,000 settlement.

In March 2002, while serving the St. Joseph parish in Lincoln, Brady informed the congregation of Hoey-Lees' allegations and denied them. The priest said he decided to speak about the allegations "given the climate of the times," referring to the sex scandals that had embroiled the Catholic Church.

At that same meeting, church officials praised Brady's revelation as "an act of courage."

Hiroshima said Duplantis read about Hoey-Lees' allegations in The Bee.

"She was outraged that they (church officials) would stand by him. She knew what he was capable of," Hiroshima said in his Sacramento office last week. He said the statements by church officials prompted his client to sue Brady and the diocese.

Duplantis could not be reached for comment on the settlement.

Hiroshima said Duplantis met Brady as an eighth-grader while working in the church office after school. He said she was infatuated with the priest and believed he would leave the church to marry her.

Brady became close to the girl's family. Photographs provided by the family show him celebrating various holidays and birthdays with Duplantis and her family. In several photos, Brady is lying on a couch with his head resting in her lap.

"These photos don't prove molestation, but they do show that a line had been crossed," said Hiroshima.

Diocesan officials declined to comment on the photos, citing ongoing litigation. A third woman filed suit against Brady in December, and Hoey-Lees has a second lawsuit pending that accuses Brady and diocesan officials of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress for "negligently and carelessly ... (calling) her, by name, as a liar and someone who falsely claimed to be a victim of clergy sexual abuse."

Hiroshima said Duplantis intends to participate in canonical proceedings against Brady and hopes to have him removed from the priesthood.

 
 

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