Priest Asks That Sex Abuse Lawsuit Be Dismissed

By Kevin O'Hanlon
The Associated Press, carried in The Independent [Toledo OH]
May 3, 2003

LINCOLN -- A monsignor at a Catholic church school accused of molesting two boys in the 1970s has asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against him in one of the cases.

Monsignor Jerome C. Murray has asked for the dismissal of charges in a federal lawsuit filed by Robert P. Goodman.

In papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in Omaha, Murray argued the statute of limitations for filing such claims has run out, among other things.

Goodman alleges in his lawsuit that Murray molested him in 1973 and 1974, when Goodman was a fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grader at St. Joseph's school in York.

Statutes of limitations for criminal sex abuse cases vary from state to state, but have generally prevented prosecutors from bringing accused priests to trial in the many decades-old cases revealed over the past year.

Nebraska law says such lawsuits must be filed within one year of the event or within a year after the victim turns 21.

There is an exception if the victim had a mental disorder that prevented him or her from understanding that they can take legal action.

Goodman's lawyer, William Walker, said Goodman suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and repressed the memories of the abuse for years.

"Mr. Goodman had repressed memory, and the memory was just revived in the past year," he said.

Murray's lawyer, Robert Shively, did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

Walker also represents a Colorado man, Randy Pfeifer, who alleges in another lawsuit that Murray physically and sexually molested him from 1974 to 1976 at St. Joseph's.

Murray has filed no request to have those charges dismissed.

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling that could have broad consequences for clergy sexual abuse cases.

The high court dismissed a lawsuit in which a woman said she was molested by a priest more than four decades ago.

The court said the woman should have filed her lawsuit sooner because a reasonable person should have been able to make a connection much earlier between the abuse and the emotional harm she said she suffered.

Walker also represents three other men who have sued Boys Town, saying they were abused while residents of the home for troubled youth west of Omaha in the 1970s and 1980s.

Nationally, the Catholic Church has spent millions over the past decade to settle sexual abuse cases involving its priests.

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