Second Suit Names Costa Mesa Priest
Courts: Man alleges being sexually abused in 1978. Attorney says the cleric denies molesting minors.

By William Lobdell
Los Angeles Times
May 7, 2002

A second accuser stepped forward Monday to file suit against a Costa Mesa priest, alleging the cleric molested him more than 20 years ago at a Northern California parochial school.

A lawsuit filed last month accused the same Roman Catholic priest, Father Jerome Henson, of molesting a boy at St. Dominic Church in Benicia, Calif. The initial suit used an eyewitness police account of one incident to corroborate the allegations.

Henson's attorney, Gary Moorhead, said his client hadn't seen the latest accusations, which were filed in Solano County Superior Court, and has denied molesting any minors. Henson, the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa, has been on paid leave since November, when the initial allegations were brought to the Diocese of Orange.

Diocesan officials said there is no indication in Henson's personnel file that he had a past molestation accusation when he transferred to Orange in 1983. The diocese is not named in the suit.

The second alleged victim, who sued under the pseudonym John Doe, works as a scientist in the Bay Area and said he decided to come forward after reading Henson's denials of sexual misconduct in the media, said his attorney, Laurence E. Drivon.

Now in his early 30s, he alleges that Henson molested him during a single school year beginning in 1978. The priest would take him out of his second-grade class and bring him to the rectory, where the sexual abuse took place, according to the suit.

On April 23, John Jacobs, now in state prison on a burglary conviction, filed a suit accusing Henson of molesting him at St. Dominic in the early 1980s. Jacobs used a police officer's eyewitness account of one incident to bolster his allegations. A police sergeant said he saw Jacobs and the priest in a compromising position at the parish cemetery.

After a short investigation, Henson was transferred out of state to another parish.

Henson is one of five Orange County priests in recent months to be swept up in the nationwide Roman Catholic Church sex scandal. The Orange diocese has about 285 priests.


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