SoCal Roman Catholic Dioceses Face More Lawsuits

Mercury News [Los Angeles CA]
December 10, 2003

LOS ANGELES - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles was sued by four women and the mother of three others who claim they were sexually assaulted by a parish priest in the early 1970s.

The civil lawsuit filed in Superior Court on Tuesday joins a host of others filed in recent weeks as attorneys for alleged molestation victims rush to beat an end-of-year filing deadline for cases involving decades-old abuse. The diocese in Orange County was also recently sued for alleged abuses by a now-deceased former priest who served there and in Arizona.

The Los Angeles suit alleges that the archdiocese was aware that parish priest George Neville Rucker had molested girls but transferred him between parishes instead of removing him from the ministry.

Rucker, 83, was arrested on a cruise ship off Alaska last year and was charged with molesting 12 girls over a 30-year period. The charges against him were dismissed in July after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a state law that lifted the statute of limitations in criminal prosecution of old molestation cases.

Tuesday's lawsuit was filed by attorney Art Goldberg on behalf of Suvilla Kennedy, whose three daughters previously sued Rucker and the archdiocese for alleged molestations, as well as Crystal Cogman, Rachel Thomas and Denise Stansell. All say they were abused by Rucker when he was at St. Agatha's Church in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said he had not seen the lawsuit but added: "The church has effective and strong and strict policies to protect children and remove abusive priests."

Meanwhile, attorneys sued the Diocese of Orange and Diocese of Phoenix alleging that the late Rev. Henry Perez took boys on trips from Arizona to California, where he gave them drugs and forced them into orgies with other priests.

The lawsuits were filed by attorneys Lynne Cadigan and John Manly on behalf of two Phoenix men now in their 30s.

Perez, who worked in Phoenix between 1976 and 1984, died recently of a heart attack at age 63. A spokesman for the Diocese of Orange said Perez worked there beginning in 1984 but was suspended in 1991 when officials learned of allegations against him that had surfaced in Phoenix.

In June, Perez was named in an indictment in Maricopa County in Arizona. He was accused of six counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of public sexual indecency.

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