Court Allows Sex Abuse Lawsuit to Proceed Despite the Statute of Limitations

By George Pawlaczyk
Belleville News-Democrat
March 13, 2008

BELLEVILLE — An appellate court has ruled that a 2003 lawsuit brought by a now 36-year-old St. Louis area firefighter, who alleges he was sexually abused in Belleville as a youth, can go forward despite the statute of limitations.

The firefighter, who lives in Illinois, was previously known in court papers as John Doe. However, at a news conference in Belleville today, Christopher D. Amenn of O'Fallon appeared publicly and gave his name.

"I'm glad there is finally going to be some accountability," he said.

In a 2-1 decision written by Justice Melissa Chapman of the Fifth Appellate District in Mount Vernon, the court ruled that Amenn's lawsuit against "Playboy Priest" Kenneth Roberts can proceed in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Roberts, known for his book "From Playboy to Priest," spoke in Belleville in 1984 and molested Amenn when the then 14-year-old youth asked Roberts about becoming a priest, according to the appellate decision. The dissenter was Justice James Donovan, a former judge in St. Clair County.

The ruling states that Amenn was not aware that what Roberts allegedly did was wrong until 14 years later in 1998 when he was 28 and went to a hospital emergency room. The lawsuit, which names the Diocese of Belleville, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Dallas, was filed in 2003.

According to the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the ruling, "Will allow more child sex abuse victims to expose their predators in court."

The ruling, which does not become final until March 28, stated that Amenn alleged that the church covered up previous sexual abuse by Roberts in Missouri.

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