Family Seeking Damages, Says Priest Molested Child

By Tabitha Yang
Tallahassee Democrat
February 11, 2008

Clergy sex abuse victims and an attorney discussed a new child molestation lawsuit against a Catholic priest and the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese this afternoon in front of the Leon County Courthouse on Monroe Street.

Fr. Vijaya "Vijay" Godugunuru sexually abused a then 15-year-old girl twice in June 2006 - once in the Blessed Trinity rectory in Bonifay and once in the back seat of the girls' parents' van, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The girl's family are devout Catholics who belong to the parish. Godugunuru was arrested and charged wih lewd behavior. He eventually pled no contest to a charge of aggravated assault. He was not required to serve any jail sentence but has since been ordered to leave the United States and return to India, his native country, according to SNAP.

A civil suit was filed today in Leon County Circuit Court seeking unspecified damages, said Attorney Joeseph Saunders of Pinellas Park. Saunders is handling the case, along with Attorneys Mike Finnegan and Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn.

"There's a shortage of priests in this country, and I think they're looking to find priests wherever they can," Saunders said. "It's kind of scary when they're importing priests from other places who might be used to abusing children fairly regularly without any legal consequences."


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