Judge Could Decide Today in Priest Records Case

By Janine Zeitlin
Naples Daily News
January 26, 2006

Two Florida newspapers — the Daily News and The Miami Herald — could get an answer today about whether employee records of a former Naples priest accused of sexual abuse should be made public.

The case is set before a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge.

Records may show the Catholic Church failed to protect children from William Romero, who worked at St. Ann school and church in 1975-76, according to an October motion filed by The Herald and later joined by the Daily News.

People deserve to know how the Catholic Church handled Romero, an "alleged serial pedophile," the motion states.

The motion is linked to a civil case settled for an unknown amount in November 2005 that accused Romero of sexually abusing a 10-year Coral Gables altar boy in 1975.

Before the case was settled, a judge ordered the Venice Diocese and the Archdiocese of Miami to turn over Romero's personnel records to the accuser's lawyer but sealed them from public view.

Romero's West Palm Beach attorney, Brooks Ricca, filed a Jan. 20 motion to oppose the newspapers that states there is "no current or future interests of justice or equity" that can be served by opening the records.

The documents "are purely historical in nature," it reads. "The newspapers and the general public at large may be curious as to what information is contained in the documents, but they certainly do not have a stake in the underlying litigation...."

Ricca could not be reached for comment.

Sandy Bohrer, a Miami attorney who will represent both newspapers at today's hearing, said both the accuser and Catholic Church officials didn't tell the judge about the newspapers' pending motion when they settled. He believes they're obligated to do so.

The public interest in seeing the records isn't just historical, he said.

"There is an interest, a continuing interest," he said.


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