Priest Abuse Case Goes to Jury

By Brian Joyce
December 16, 2008

The latest priest sex abuse case is now in the hands of the jury. A former altar boy wants to make the Vermont Catholic Diocese pay millions in damages for the actions of a pedophile priest 30 years ago.

The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon at the Superior Court following nine days of testimony and three and half hours of closing arguments.

The jury is deliberating claims from a 43-year-old former altar boy who was groped two times by former Vermont priest Edward Paquette 30 years ago at a Burlington parish.

He claims he suffered life-long psychological damage as a result of the two incidents. He wants the diocese to pay him at least $886,000 to compensate. He also wants the diocese to pay him $6 million to $12 million as punishment for failing to protect him and other children from pedophile priests like Paquette and covering up their crimes for decades.

The plaintiff's lawyer Jerry O'Neill said, "Look at the defense documents. Look at our documents, the ones we've put together. Put them all together, look at them and what you will see is a pattern of conduct that will make you want to throw up. You'll come to that conclusion on your own. You can't help but be appalled by it."

On the other side, the diocese says there is no evidence linking the former altar boy's psychological problems to the Paquette incidents, even from the former altar boy's own doctor. They also claim the diocese should not be punished for mistakes of 30 years ago that have now been addressed.

"The diocese doesn't need to be taught a lesson. It has taken steps over the decades," defense lawyer Tom McCormick said. "Lessons have been learned. Practices have been changed. Understandings are different."

This is the fourth priest abuse trial this year filed against the diocese by former altar boys. The first ended with a $15,000 award to the plaintiff; the second with an award of more than $8.5 million to another Paquette victim. It's under appeal. The third-- again, another Paquette victim-- ended in a mistrial. The jury could not agree on damages. The diocese has also paid nearly $2 million to settle with seven other former altar boys.


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