Jury Awards Janssen Nephew $1.9M

By Todd Ruger
Quad-City Times [Davenport IA]
May 9, 2005

A Scott County jury ruled against former priest James Janssen this afternoon, ordering him to pay damages totaling $1.89 million for sexual abuse of his nephew decades ago.

The civil trial jury's verdict was unanimous and was delivered shortly after 1 p.m. The eight-person panel deliberated about four hours before returning to the courtroom.

James Wells, 56, of Bettendorf, who is Janssen's nephew and the plaintiff in the case, hugged his attorney, Craig Levien, after the verdict was announced.

Janssen, 83, of Davenport, admitted during testimony Wednesday that the sexual abuse took place during the 1950s, but he retook the witness stand Thursday and denied that he committed those acts.

Janssen was a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport when the incidents involving Wells and other young boys occurred. Janssen was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican in 2004.

The jury award included $632,000 in punitive damages and $1.26 million in other damages.