‘Spotlight’ lawyer accuses Newark archdiocese of defending abusive priest

The Sentonian

January 30, 2019

By Isabel Soisson

Mitchell Garabedian, the celebrated lawyer known for representing the sexual abuse victims of Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area, recently accused the Archdiocese of Newark of blaming the alleged victims of Rev. Michael “Mitch” Walters in order to protect him. Walters is accused of abusing five boys and one girl decades ago. Walters graduated from Seton Hall in 1977 with a BA in religious studies.

Garabedian’s work was depicted in the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” and he has continued to represent sexual abuse victims across the United States. He criticized the archdiocese after announcing that five of the alleged victims of Walters had settled their civil lawsuits against the Catholic Church for $400,000.

Lawyers for the archdiocese cited the “doctrine of contributory negligence” to argue that “these children were at fault when they were sexually abused,” Garabedian said at a press conference, according to NBC News.

Walters served at St. Cassian Church and school in Montclair and at St. John Nepomucene Parish in Guttenberg during his time as a priest. He is accused of molesting children between 1982 and 1995 at both parishes. Walters’ last assignment was at the Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange. Walters was removed from his last assignment after the first sex abuse allegations came to light. He has since denied these claims and records indicate he may now live in Rutherford, N.J., at a retirement home for priests, also according to NBC News.

Last September, New Jersey officials announced the creation of a special task force to investigate both the alleged sex abuse by members of the clergy within the dioceses of New Jersey and alleged cover-up by the Catholic Church, as previously reported by The Setonian. Seton Hall University then hired Newark law firm Gibbons P.C. to independently investigate sex abuse allegations that “may have involved seminarians” at both the Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology and the College Seminary at Saint Andrew’s Hall on the South Orange campus. These accusations were leveled against the former Archbishop of Newark, Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick served as president of the board of trustees at Seton Hall and served as Archbishop of Newark during the mid-80s to early 2000s.

Maria Margiotta, acting director of communications and public relations for the Archdiocese of Newark, sent the following statement to The Setonian when asked for comment on Garabedian’s accusations.

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