Second Suit Filed in Sex Abuse Case
A Third Victim Comes Forward from the Former Tampa School

By Carrie Weimar
St. Petersburg Times
April 17, 2007

A former student at Tampa's Mary Help of Christians has filed suit against the school after a former teacher admitted to molesting young boys during his tenure.

Jorge Acosta, a highly regarded singer, actor and teacher, gave a sworn deposition in February in which he said he had sexual relations with at least three boys while he was a cleric and teacher at the school.

Acosta said he spent years trying to understand his actions in the 1980s and never again touched a child inappropriately.

The deposition was the centerpiece of a $5-million lawsuit filed against the now-closed school and the Catholic order that ran it, the Salesian Society.

The suit was filed by two former students who accuse school officials of failing to act on complaints of abuse.

The most recent suit, filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, is from a third student, who recognized himself in Acosta's deposition.

Adam Horowitz, the Miami lawyer who filed the original suit, said he was contacted by the former student, who was 13 and in the seventh grade at the time of the alleged abuse.

Acosta could not be reached for comment Monday.

In 1983, Acosta was a brother in the Salesian Society, served as the choir and band director at Mary Help of Christians, and taught Spanish and English. He was also a dormitory supervisor.

He said his first sexual encounter with a student came when an eighth-grade boy climbed into bed with him.

"I remember that part of the shock for me was that he knew how to do all of this much better than I did," Acosta said.

He said that school officials were aware of two incidents of sexual contact with students but allowed him to remain.

In the suit, the student said Acosta kissed him and fondled his genitals in the school's large dormitory.

He said the acts of sexual abuse caused him to experience severe psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety attacks and nightmares. He is asking for unspecified monetary damages.

Acosta was appearing in Cigar City Chronicles, a musical at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, when news of his deposition became public. He was replaced by an understudy and also lost his job as artistic director of the Galaxy Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg.


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