First Coast Diocese Sued for Ignoring Abuse

By Kristin Smith
First Coast News
February 13, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- A man who says he was abused more than 50 years ago is coming forward now.

Gregory Peake says it all started when he was nine.

His attorney, Joseph Saunders, showed First Coast News letters Peake said came from Father William Weinheimer in 1954.

"Basically love letters to Mr. Peake, telling him that he should burn the letters so his parents wouldn't see them, reminiscing about the bed in the back room where they had their siestas, and telling him that he loved him," said Saunders about the content in Weinheimer's letters.

Now Peake is filing suit against the St. Augustine Catholic Diocese.

Saunders said the diocese knew about the abuse but did nothing, allowing it to continue.

"The church is responsible for the conduct of its priests, and the hierarchy of the church has covered up the abuse and allowed it to continue for decades," said Saunders.

A statement from the church says it is aware of and reviewing the allegations.

But now, 22 years after Father Weinheimer's death, Saunders realizes the fight could be tough, however, he also says it's necessary.

"He had been intimidated for many years by what he'd been taught by the church. That is was wrong and sinful to accuse a priest of doing that and he'd go to hell for doing that," said Saunders.

Because the alleged abuse happened so long ago, the statute of limitations expired long ago.

But Saunders said he plans on arguing that since his client says he was threatened to not come forward about the abuse, the statute is meaningless in this case.


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