Settles 4 Sex Abuse Claims
The agreement comes soon before a trial involving charges the church was at fault for relations between a coach and a teenage girl.
By Rachanee Srisavasdi
Orange County Register
October 6, 2007
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange agreed Friday to pay $6.7 million to settle a high-profile Catholic school sex-abuse case and three other claims, ending the possibility that church officials would have to take the stand and testify about sex-abuse allegations.
The move to settle came a week before the anticipated jury trial in the case of a woman called Jane C.R. Doe. The former Mater Dei High School student said Catholic officials were partially responsible for her abuse by former assistant basketball coach Jeff Andrade. The former student alleged she had been abused for two years by Andrade, starting in 1995, when she was a minor.
The plaintiff, now a 26-year-old single mother, said she was happy about the settlement but remains angry at school and church officials. Diocese lawyers grilled her on her sexual history during her pretrial testimony in the case.
“The reason (the diocese) settled my case is because they had no choice,” she said. “If they had settled this three years ago, it would have never come to this. … They don’t care about victims.”
In her deposition, she testified Andrade first accosted her in the coach's office, grabbed her, groped her and forced her to have oral sex. Later, she had sex with him at the school, in his car, in his house and in Las Vegas.
Whether the abuse happened was never an issue in the case. Andrade, who attorneys say lives in Texas, admitted he had sex with the girl, according to his November 2006 deposition.
Andrade and his attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.
Diocese attorney Peter Callahan said the settlement was not an indication that the diocese, which owns the private Santa Ana school, was culpable for the abuse.
“I wanted to go to trial and exonerate Mater Dei High School,” he said. He added school officials reported the abuse promptly to authorities. Westminster police investigated the case, but no criminal charges were filed.
“This case involved a student, teacher and high school. It did not have to do with the diocese,” he added.
Bishop Tod Brown said in a statement: “The settlement of these civil cases represents the moral obligation for the church for such behavior by adults in positions of responsibility. I sincerely hope that it will enable the women who brought these actions to begin the process of healing and reconciliation.”
Brown had to give his first testimony about sex abuse last month in the case. He admitted he had been accused of molesting a boy 42 years ago while he was a priest in Bakersfield and that he had decided to not reveal the claim publicly because it was untrue. The claim was deemed unsubstantiated by church officials.
Besides the Andrade case, the settlement included three other sex-abuse claims against two choir directors and a teacher in the diocese. Ryan DiMaria, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said the accusations involved: Larry Stukenholtz, a choir director at Mater Dei; Jeffrey Seckman, a teacher at Santa Margarita High School; and Albert Schildknecht, a choir director at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church in Laguna Niguel and St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point. All men were alleged to have had sexual relations with underage girls from 1990 to 1998, he added.
DiMaria did not say how much money will go to each plaintiff.
The cost of the settlement will be divided among the men, the diocese’s insurance companies, the diocese and the school, diocese officials said.
A pretrial hearing in the case is still on for Tuesday. Plaintiff’s attorneys want a judge to hold Brown in contempt of court for sending a priest who used to field sex-abuse complaints to a facility in Canada for psychological treatment. Brown will be at the hearing.
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1997: Jeffrey Andrade, a junior varsity basketball coach, leaves his position.
July 2005: A former Mater Dei High School student identified as Jane C.R. Doe sues, saying Andrade sexually abused her for two years starting in 1995. The suit also alleges the church “engaged in a pattern and practice of hiring sexual abusers,” and says the school has hired at least 10 people who have abused students since 1976.
May 2006: Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan H. Cannon rules Mater Dei must make available records on faculty accused of sex abuse from 1988 to 1997 and that former Dean Brenda Yecke must answer all questions from Jane C.R. Doe’s lawyers.
January 2007: Court affidavits released show Mater Dei allowed Andrade to resign in 1997 and did not warn other school officials or parents that he may be a risk to children. Deposition by Jane C.R. Doe is also released.
April 2007: A Superior Court judge rules that Catholic diocese officials must identify some Mater Dei employees accused of sexual misconduct, if asked by lawyers, to determine if Andrade got preferential treatment by being allowed to visit the campus in the capacity of a job he took after leaving the school.
September 2007: The court rules that Orange Bishop Tod Brown must testify regarding past childhood sex-abuse cases. Brown admits under oath that he allowed a priest accused of rape to keep working in the Orange Diocese. He also says he was accused of molesting a boy in 1965, and denied the claim. He reveals the diocese paid Andrade $100,000 to settle Andrade’s lawsuit against the diocese about being labeled an alleged perpetrator.
Oct. 5, 2007: The diocese settles the Andrade lawsuit and three other sex-abuse cases in Orange County for approximately $6.7 million. The student’s lawyers are still pursuing a motion to hold Brown in contempt for sending a priest to Canada for psychological treatment when the priest was ordered to give a deposition.
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