Federal Trial of Former Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse Begins Jury Selection

By Erin L. Nissley
Citizens Voice
November 6, 2007

Jury selection began Monday in a federal sex abuse civil trial involving a former priest and the Diocese of Scranton, with lawyers questioning more than two dozen potential jurors about their feelings toward Catholicism.

The victim, identified in court filings as "John Doe," claims the former priest, Albert M. Liberatore Jr., sexually abused him from 1999 to 2002, beginning when the boy was 14.

Liberatore, now 42, was pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Duryea when the abuse occurred. He pleaded guilty in 2005 in Luzerne County and New York to sexually abusing the victim and was sentenced to 10 years probation and defrocked.

The victim filed the federal suit against Liberatore, the diocese, Sacred Heart, retired Bishop James C. Timlin, the Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz, who was the diocesan vicar of priests when the abuse occurred, and Brother Antonio F. Antonucci, an employee at Sacred Heart who may have witnessed interactions between Liberatore and the victim.

The suit claims the diocese and clergymen didn't heed warnings from several sources that Liberatore was abusing the boy and is asking for monetary damages, including an award for pain and suffering, emotional distress and mental anguish.

The victim's attorney, Daniel T. Brier, questioned potential jurors Monday on their feelings about the Catholic Church.

"Is anyone worried that an award for (the plaintiff) would affect the Church's charitable activities?" Brier asked.

Later, he asked, "Anyone feel that cases like these ... might help make Catholic churches safer?"

Diocesan attorney Joseph A. O'Brien also asked potential jurors about their feelings about Catholicism, but also asked about drug and alcohol addiction.

The victim claims in court paperwork the abuse led him to abuse drugs and alcohol. Lawyers on both sides plan to call experts to testify about that subject, as well as the victim's claims he suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder as a result of Liberatore's abuse.

The trial will continue tomorrow and is slated to last two to three weeks.



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