Attorney Says More Victims of Priest Will Surface Soon|
The Lawyer Who Represents a Man Allegedly Sexually Abused by a Catholic Priest Says Additional Victims Will Step Forward Next Month
By Roberto Santiago rsantiago@MiamiHerald.com, Jay Weaver and Wanda DeMarzo
Miami Herald [Florida]
January 28, 2006
Father Neil Doherty would slip something into his victims' drinks to make them sleepy. Then, when they were unconscious, the Catholic priest would assault them, according to documents released Friday.
The Archdiocese of Miami was aware of the priest's history, but instead of removing him, it moved him around -- to different parishes or Catholic agencies, according to attorney Jeffrey Herman, who has filed a $25-million lawsuit on behalf of a Margate man, and is preparing lawsuits for other victims, he said.
"They were also victims of [Rev.] Neil Doherty," said Herman, of Miami.
Herman represents five men who claim Doherty molested them while he was a priest.
Doherty, 62, now retired, was denied bond Friday -- a day after Broward Sheriff's deputies charged him with two counts of sexual battery on a child, two counts of indecent assault and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation.
He remained in the Broward County Jail late Friday.
The charges stemmed from a BSO investigation, where detectives found four victims -- three boys and one adult male -- who all told similar stories about their assaults.
At a press conference on Friday, Herman distributed documents from 1979 to 1992 that he says suggest the Archdiocese knew about the abuse but that it did nothing about it.
The archdiocese's knowledge of past accusations against Doherty surfaced in a 2003 memorandum by the Broward State Attorney's Office in which a sex-crimes prosecutor disclosed a 1994 settlement with a student who had been enrolled at Chaminade High School in Hollywood decades earlier.
A lawsuit filed in that case resulted in a $50,000 settlement.
"I can't speak for why the decisions were made," said Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.
Doherty had served in South Florida parishes for three decades. He is the first Catholic priest in the Archdiocese to be charged with sexual battery on a child younger than 12.
The Archdiocese would respond to the civil suits once they are filed, Agosta said.
"Beyond the lawsuits, the most important thing for victims of any abuse is to step forward," said Agosta.
The Archdiocese turns all matters of abuse over to the State Attorney's Office and offers in-house counseling to victims and offenders, she said.
Four males who say they were abused by Doherty have come forward since the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.
The four -- three boys and one adult male -- told chillingly similar stories, BSO said.
One victim said he met Father Doherty at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale in 1973 when he was 12 years old. During that meeting, Doherty steered the conversation towards sex, BSO said. After several more meetings, Doherty brought the victim to a private home, gave him alcohol and marijuana, then sexually assaulted him, BSO said.
Another victim, a young boy, told investigators he met Doherty when he was about 7. He said Doherty would hold "private confessions" with him nearly every day.
The victim said that several times, Doherty gave him soda that made him pass out. While the boy was unconscious, Doherty allegedly would sexually assault him. The attacks on this victim went on for several years, ending in March 2000, BSO said.
Investigators interviewed two more victims who told similar stories. Each said they went to Doherty for counseling, were given drugs, passed out and were sexually assaulted, according to BSO.
The civil suit filed against the Archdiocese offers evidence that church leaders were aware of earlier sex-abuse allegations against Doherty, yet apparently did nothing to protect children from him.
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