Jury Begins Deliberations on Church Case

By Kevin O'Connor
Rutland Herald
December 16, 2008

BURLINGTON — After hearing almost 10 days of testimony, a jury has begun deliberations in the latest priest misconduct trial involving Vermont's Catholic Church.

A Chittenden Superior Court jury of five men and seven women heard closing arguments Tuesday morning in a civil lawsuit brought by David Navari, a 43-year-old Burlington native who claims the state's largest religious denomination was negligent in its 1970s hiring and supervision of a pedophile priest.

Navari was an 11-year-old altar boy at Burlington's Christ the King Church when former priest Edward Paquette groped the fifth-grader's genitals on two occasions in 1977, the plaintiff testified in court.

Lawyers for the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese haven't denied the abuse took place but have argued that past church leaders were simply following since-debunked advice of psychiatrists who at one point hoped the priest could be cured through 11 sessions of electric shock therapy.

Twenty former altar boys have filed civil lawsuits alleging the diocese was reckless for not telling their childhood parishes about past sexual abuse of boys by Paquette, who served in Rutland in 1972, Montpelier in 1974 and Burlington in 1976.

In the first trial on the claims in May, a jury rejected the diocese's defense that it wasn't liable for the priest's misconduct and awarded plaintiff Perry Babel, a 40-year-old Burlington native, a record $8.7 million verdict in compensatory and punitive damages.

But in a second trial in August, the diocese altered its defense in a case brought by 41-year-old Burlington native Thomas Murray and expressed remorse for priest misconduct it said it tried to curb.

A jury went on to deliberate for three days before announcing it couldn't agree on a verdict, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.


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