Dec. 30, 2019

Attorneys suing the Diocese of San Bernardino on behalf of a man who claims he was sexually abused as a child by a priest in Hemet alleged Monday that the clergyman was one of dozens permitted to have a free hand with children for decades.

During a news briefing in Riverside, attorney Mike Reck said the civil action filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court is one of multiple lawsuits submitted statewide under the auspices of a law that takes effect Wednesday — Assembly Bill 218, known as the “California Child Victims Act.”

“The law catapults California to the forefront of child protection,” Reck said. “It addresses the cover-up of child sexual assault and provides that not only the abuser can be sued, but those who covered it up can be sued. It directs a change in behavior of institutions, liked this (San Bernardino) Diocese, which time and time again placed their reputation and secrecy over the safety of children.”

Requests for comment from the diocese were not immediately answered.

AB 218 opens a three-year window in which abuse victims can take civil action against religious and other institutions where children were allegedly molested, and the offenses concealed. If a jury finds that an institution conspired to shield abusers and hide crimes, the damage awards can be tripled, under the new law.

“This is to deter behavior and make institutions charged with the care of children change and do the right thing,” Reck said. “They do not always do the right thing (until) brave survivors call them out on the decisions they’ve made.”

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