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  St. Louis, Dallas Churches Seek Dismissal of Sex Suit

By William Lamb
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri]
February 2, 2006

Belleville — Attorneys for the St. Louis Archdiocese and the Dallas Diocese said Wednesday that their clients could not be held legally responsible for the actions of a priest accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in here in 1984.

At a hearing in circuit court in Belleville, the lawyers insisted that the priest, the Rev. Kenneth Roberts, was acting on his own and not as an agent of either diocese when he spent a week at St. Mary's Catholic School in Belleville 22 years ago. A man identified only as "John Doe" alleged in a suit filed in 2003 that Roberts sexually molested him on that visit.

Roberts was ordained as a priest in the Dallas Diocese in 1966 but took a leave of absence in 1969. He was on duty outside the diocese between 1974 and 1988, for a time using an apartment in St. Louis County as a home base while promoting his book, "From Playboy to Priest." He retired in 1999.

John Doe, who is now 35, has sued Roberts, the Belleville Diocese, the Dallas Diocese and the St. Louis Archdiocese, which allowed Roberts to live for a time in church housing in Florissant and to conduct some services there. John Doe, who did not appear in court on Wednesday, is seeking $50,000 in damages.

Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto agreed Wednesday to give both sides more time to do additional discovery before ruling on a motion filed by Edward M. Goldenhersh, the attorney for the St. Louis Archdiocese, to have the case dismissed because the archdiocese does not do business or own property in St. Clair County. The Dallas Diocese is seeking dismissal on the same grounds.

Roberts did not appear at the hearing Wednesday. His attorney, Kevin Hoerner, said that his client "denies any wrongdoing."

Cueto also agreed to take under advisement a motion by Hoerner to have the case dismissed because it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired. John Doe's suit was filed in November 2003, soon after a new Illinois law took effect extending the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases to 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday or five years after the victim makes the connection between abuse and injuries.

John Doe's attorney, Patrick Noaker, argued that his client became aware of his injures late in 1998 and had met the requirements under the new law.

 
 

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