Unseal Abuse-Suit Papers, Judge Asked
Plaintiff, Newspaper Want Details Made Public
By Frank E. Lockwood firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexington Herald-Leader [Kentucky]
February 17, 2006
A man who says he was sexually abused by a Lexington priest in 1974 is asking Fayette Circuit Judge Mary Noble to unseal key documents so that the public can learn the details of his case.
The Herald-Leader also is asking the court to lift restrictions on the court papers.
Samuel Lee Edwards Greywolf, 48, who is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, alleges that the Rev. John B. Modica plied him with wine and marijuana, then forced him to have sex. Greywolf was 17 years old.
Under a December 2003 agreed protective order, internal church documents designated as "confidential" by the diocese are sealed. Defense attorneys can see them if they are relevant to the lawsuit, but cannot release them to outsiders without the court's permission.
The motion to unseal is scheduled to be heard today, but the diocese has requested additional time to respond.
Chuck Arnold, Greywolf's attorney, says virtually all the documents the church has turned over have been stamped "confidential," even newspaper clippings about Modica's criminal past.
Court papers that quote or paraphrase the confidential records also are sealed, Arnold said in an interview. As a result, even a memorandum outlining much of Greywolf's case must be filed under seal, he added.
"This shroud of secrecy is kind of nonsense," Arnold said. "Things need to be open."
Some facts in the case are already a matter of public record.
Modica, now 84, was an assistant pastor at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Church in Lexington at the time of the alleged abuse.
Greywolf, who was not a Catholic, says he was introduced to the priest by a teacher at Lafayette High School.
Greywolf, who was taking a speech class, says Modica had agreed to help him practice his oratorical skills.
There are several inconsistencies in Greywolf's story. In the past, he said he was 13 or about 15 when he was victimized, court records show. He now says it happened when he was 17.
Greywolf originally said the abuse occurred in the rectory of the Cathedral of Christ the King. He now says it happened at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary's rectory.
Greywolf initially said he had had "oral sexual relations" with the priest. He now says he was anally raped.
Early in the lawsuit, Greywolf said he thought his abuser was named Mike or Michael.
But Greywolf has an explanation for the contradictions.
"Over the past several years, I have learned that memory suppression, confusion and 'blocking' are common symptoms and characteristics of victims who have been sexually molested," he said in an affidavit filed with the court.
Diocesan attorney Carrie K. Huff declined to comment yesterday. Modica could not be reached.
The motion to unseal says that Modica refused to answer questions when questioned by Arnold, repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In December 1978, the priest was accused of smuggling marijuana to a 20-year-old male inmate at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree promotion of contraband.
After receiving psychiatric treatment at a church facility in New Mexico, he received a brief jail sentence and was transferred to another Catholic parish in Alexandria.
It's unclear whether the diocese will fight attempts to unseal the documents. In 2002, it fought to permanently seal some documents listing other sexual abuse allegations, taking its case to the Kentucky Supreme Court. But early in 2003, it dropped its objections, allowing the documents to be released.
The Herald-Leader filed a motion to intervene in the case this week, asking that the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and all supporting documents be "unsealed and made immediately available to the public and the press."
Sealing the records "irreparably impairs the Herald-Leader's rights under the common law and under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States to gather and report the news," the motion states.
"We intend to vigorously pursue our access to these documents," newspaper attorney Robert Houlihan Jr. said.
Reach Frank Lockwood at (859) 231-3211, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3211, or email@example.com.
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