Priest Sex Abuse Case in Jury's Hands
Unclear When Verdict Will Come down

December 16, 2008

[with video]

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The latest trial against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vt., went to the jury at just after 2 p.m. Tuesday.

It is unclear if a verdict will come down from the court today.

The plaintiff in the case took the stand last week, describing how he was molested as an altar boy at the church. The trial is the third of its kind this year against the diocese.

The now 43-year-old man said the Rev. Edward Paquette molested him twice while he was a 12-year-old altar boy at Christ the King Church.

NewsChannel 5 does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The attorneys for the plaintiff argue the Diocese acted recklessly and wanted to protect its own priests at all costs. Diocesan attorneys argue the diocese does not need to be taught a lesson and has taken steps over many decades to change its ways.

The plaintiff's attorneys suggested figures from $886,000 to $1.35 million for compensatory damages, such as pain and suffering by their client. They also made a suggestion of $6 to $12 million for punitive damages.

Attorneys for the diocese asked jurors, if they decided to compensate the plaintiff, to do it fairly and not wildly. They said that therapy for the plaintiff would cost around $7500 to $15,000. They also asked jurors to return no punitive damages, or a nominal amount such as $1, $10, or $100.

In court last week, the victim said Paquette had asked him to become an altar boy, and he said the molestation happened when he was learning about the duties.

"I remember that it hurt. I was completely confused. I had not been an altar boy before, and believe it or not, the first thing that came to mind was, was this the way the priest helps you get dressed?" said the plaintiff.

He said he knew the second time Paquette molested him, it was wrong. But he said he was worried he would get in trouble. "I started out with a lot of fear of getting in trouble, but then it turned into more just guilt, and feeling bad and dirty," he said.

The plaintiff described leading a life filled with anxiety after the incidents happened.

The defense asked him why he was bringing his claim to Chittenden Superior Court, and whether he had sued Paquette. The plaintiff said he had not. "You're trying to get monetary damages here because you are claiming that you were harmed somehow, emotionally harmed, is that the claim?" defense attorney Kaveh Shahi asked. Shahi asked him why he may have told a local reporter about the abuse back in 2002, before telling his parents.

All three trials this year involve allegations the diocese failed to protect young people against Paquette even though church officials knew of previous child abuse allegations against him. One trial ended with an $8.7 million award against the diocese. The other ended with a hung jury. The most recent case seeks unspecified damages.

The latest trial continues Wednesday. A defense attorney said it could last a few more days. He said it's unclear if the Diocese's current Bishop Salvatore Matano will take the stand in this trial.


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