Ex-Priest Doherty Implicated in Another Sex-Abuse Suit

By Jay Weaver
Miami Herald [Miami FL]
January 3, 2007

A retired South Florida Catholic priest criminally charged with sexual battery on a minor was implicated in yet another civil molestation suit filed today against the Archdiocese of Miami.

A Broward County man identified as "John Doe No. 28" claims in the lawsuit that the Rev. Neil Doherty sexually abused him as a 14-year-old in the priest's car and in the rectory at St. Vincent Catholic Church in Margate. Doherty gave money to him after the alleged abuse, which took place in 1999, according to the suit.

The plaintiff's attorney says Miami archdiocese officials -- including Archbishop John C. Favalora -- not only failed to protect the alleged victim but were also aware of at least three prior incidents in which Doherty sexually abused boys before he became the pastor at St. Vincent.

"Despite multiple instances of notice . . . the archdiocese took no action against Doherty and continued to give him unfettered access to young boys," said Aventura attorney Jeffrey Herman. He has brought six civil complaints against the Miami archdiocese involving Doherty since the sex-abuse scandal rocked the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.

An Archdiocese spokesperson was unavailable to comment early today on the negligence case, filed in Broward Circuit Court. Doherty's criminal lawyer, David Bogenschutz, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The latest suit does not include allegations made in previous complaints that accused Doherty, 63, of drugging his victims with sleep-inducing pills before abusing them.

In 2005, Herman filed a suit on behalf of another Broward man who said he was 11 when Doherty allegedly abused him at St. Vincent and other locations in the mid-1990s. In December, an appellate court upheld a trial judge's order that required Favalora to give a civil deposition, which is set for later this month. The archdiocese had fought it.

A year ago, Broward prosecutors filed criminal charges against Doherty, alleging he raped the same victim over a five-year period. The case marked the most serious charges ever brought against a Catholic priest in the Miami archdiocese.

Doherty was charged with two counts of sexual battery on a child, two counts of indecent assault and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation. He remains free on a $70,000 bond requiring that he wear an electronic monitoring device.

Doherty, initially placed on administrative leave by the Miami archdiocese in April 2002, could face life in prison if convicted.

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. The case was settled for $50,000. Broward prosecutor Dennis Siegel noted in his memo that "Father Doherty volunteered to undergo a mental health evaluation" at a program in Connecticut. The evaluator recommended that Doherty be temporarily suspended from his duties pending further investigation of sex-abuse allegations, documents show.

Doherty was not suspended but transferred to St. Vincent's in 1992 as pastor, according to records.

Miami church leaders "could be considered criminally culpable for failing to report" the allegations of child abuse, Siegel wrote in the memo, noting two other molestation complaints involving Doherty in 1979 and 1987.

"However, because the statute of limitations has expired on this matter, no action can be taken by this office," he wrote.


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