Diocese Offers to Settle Sex Abuse Suits

By Tona Kunz
Voice of the Faithful [Atlanta]
September 28, 2004

Convicted pedophile Mark Campobello has failed to contest two victims' civil suits against him and the Rockford Diocese the former Geneva priest served in has offered to settle the cases.

By not answering court summons, a Kane County judge Monday ruled Campobello, 39, in essence forfeited one of the lawsuits against him.

The suit alleges he had sexual contact with a then 15-year-old girl enrolled at Aurora Central Catholic High School. He taught Latin there and was the spiritual leader.

The suit contends that from April 1999 to March 2000 he abused her at Mooseheart, in his car, at the school and in the Crystal Lake rectory of St. Thomas the Apostle parish.

Campobello has 30 days to contest the ruling and hire a lawyer or the ruling will be finalized.

Campobello also has failed to respond to a later summons in a second lawsuit against him by a then 15-year-old victim who said she was sexually abused numerous times in the rectory of St. Peter's Church in Geneva. Campobello was the resident priest at St. Peter's at the time.

The suit also alleges she was abused in her Geneva home. Both instances happened over a four-month period in 1999. He will shortly be declared in default in that case.

Campobello is serving eight years in Illinois River Correctional Center near Canton for pleading guilty May 13 to abusing the two girls.

What financial pot the victims will have to draw from for damages remains unclear, but a judgment can encompass future earnings from inheritance or book earnings as well as current assets.

Attorney Keith Aeschliman, of Shorewood, who represents both girls, is holding off on asking for a judgment against Campobello until a decision is rendered with the co-defendant, the Rockford diocese.

The diocese sent letters to both girls recently offering to negotiate a settlement, said Ellen Lynch, a Rockford attorney representing the diocese. No monetary figures have been suggested yet.

"It is rare to be this fast," Aeschliman said. "I think without a doubt their desire to settle is motivated by compassion for the victim but without a doubt it is also motivated by a desire to not have all the documents requested come to light."

Aeschliman has said he will ask for the internal church records on 33 priests, including Campobello, accused of abuse in recent years. A similar request isolated to Campobello was upheld by the 2nd District Appellate Court, but never acted upon because Campobello pleaded guilty in his criminal trial and the records request became moot.

The diocese declined to appeal the request to the Illinois Supreme Court, where a ruling would have been binding on all 11 counties in the diocese. Aeschliman has vowed to take his request that far.

He served subpoenas to the Geneva Police Department and Kane County state's attorney's office Thursday to get investigation records including interviews with other potential victims, co-workers and witnesses.

That information will help him formulate specifics for his request of diocese documents. The request is expected in December.

Suit: No judgment request made by victims' lawyer yet.


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