Portland Priest Could Face Criminal Sex Abuse Charges
Abuse Claim | The Fifth Amendment Is Cited in a Case That May Fall Within the Statute of Limitations
By Ashbel S. Green
October 19, 2005
A court filing in the Portland Archdiocese bankruptcy includes this revelation: One of the priests accused of abusing half a dozen boys has asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 80 times.
This raises the possibility that for the first time in more than 20 years, a Portland priest might face criminal prosecution for alleged sexual abuse.
Thomas E. Cooney, the attorney for the Rev. Donald Durand, said the accusations against his client were false.
"A claimant's lawyer has advised that a client of his contends that he was sexually abused and allegedly it is within the criminal statute of limitations," Cooney said Tuesday. "Father Durand adamantly denies that. But in order to protect his rights, we claim the Fifth Amendment until we can depose this guy to see what he has to say."
Gary Bisaccio, one of the accuser's attorneys, said his client has so far refused to go to the police.
"He's very scared. That's the problem we have," Bisaccio said.
In 1983, the Rev. Thomas Laughlin was convicted of molesting two boys in Multnomah County, the first and only time a Catholic priest has faced criminal charges in Oregon.
Since then, hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse have been made against more than three dozen Oregon priests. Most of the claims were made after the alleged molester died. The rest surfaced after it was too late to file criminal charges.
In Oregon, criminal charges generally must be filed against an alleged abuser before the victim turns 24.
Bisaccio said he and Randall Vogt have eight clients who have made accusations against Durand involving conduct from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The 1990s accusations are subject to possible criminal charges because the accuser has not yet turned 24, Bisaccio said.
Durand was ordained in 1958. He has served in parishes in Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Silverton. He retired in 2001 after nine years as pastor of St. Clare in Southwest Portland, said Bud Bunce, archdiocese spokesman.
The revelation about Durand's taking the Fifth Amendment arose in a motion filed Monday seeking to block the deposition of the accuser by attorneys for Durand and the Portland Archdiocese.
The motion claims that depositions of three other Durand accusers "made absolutely no difference" in Durand's settlement position on those claims, Bisaccio wrote. "There is no reason to believe that one more deposition would have made any difference whatsoever, and we dispute any suggestion to the contrary. Now our clients are resolved to go to trial; the issue is moot."
Lawyers for the archdiocese are seeking to dismiss the claim, saying it doesn't contain enough supporting evidence and was filed beyond the civil statute of limitations.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris is expected to take up the dispute today.
Ashbel "Tony" Green: 503-221-8202; firstname.lastname@example.org
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