Abuse Suit Dismissal Ok’d

By Bill Lodge
The Advocate

December 27, 2008

A Baton Rouge appellate panel this week upheld the dismissal of a civil court complaint of sexual abuse against a former Crowley priest.

A man identified only as “John Doe” filed his suit against the Rev. Joseph F. Pellettieri in March 2003, more than 30 years after the alleged incident.

The case file remains sealed. But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal unanimously upheld state District Judge R. Michael Caldwell’s dismissal of the suit.

According to the appellate court’s public decision, the unidentified plaintiff claimed that he may have been hypnotized and that he did not recall any incident until approximately February 2002.

But Caldwell and appellate Judges John T. Pettigrew, J. Michael McDonald and Jefferson D. Hughes III concluded that “Doe” should have filed his suit no later than a year after that recollection.

Don M. Richard, a Metairie attorney for another defendant, the Redemptorist order of priests, said Louisiana law requires a plaintiff to file suit within one year of the time he or she becomes aware of being wronged.

“I read the entire (appellate) opinion,” Richard said. “It made a lot of sense to me.

“I thought they would affirm what Judge Caldwell did, so I’m very happy with that.”

Pellettieri, who was suspended from the priesthood after “Doe” complained to a sex abuse hotline in early 2002, could not be reached for comment.

“We have no comment,” Michael DeShazo, one of Pellettieri’s New Orleans attorneys, said Friday.

Three Baton Rouge attorneys for “Doe” did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday and Friday.

Six years ago, officials of the Redemptorist order said Pellettieri had never before been accused of sexual misconduct.

The unidentified plaintiff resides in Chicago, according to the 1st Circuit’s written decision. And he was a minor when he met Pellettieri.

“Mr. Doe alleged that during the years of approximately 1965 through 1968, he came into contact with Father Pellettieri while assisting his father with his job duties at Notre Dame High School,” the appellate panel noted.

The high school is in the Acadia Parish city of Crowley. Pellettieri was promoted to serve as the school’s principal for the 1971-72 academic year, according to the appellate decision. He also served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Crowley.

“Mr. Doe alleged Father Pellettieri utilized hypnosis and post-hypnotic suggestion to engage in or have Mr. Doe engage in inappropriate sexual behavior with him and/or others,” the judges wrote.

“While claiming not to have full recall of the wrongdoing by defendants, Mr. Doe further alleged his life was tragically altered and damaged by the predatory sexual conduct of Father Pellettieri,” the appellate panel noted. “Mr. Doe asserted within a short time of the inappropriate predatory sexual contact, he developed a great deal of anger and self-protectiveness that resulted in his commitment to the Louisiana State Hospital at Pineville … on two occasions.”

Redemptorist officials said six years ago that Pellettieri left the Crowley area in 1976, then served in Waterford, Wis., Baton Rouge and Alexandria before moving to the New Orleans archdiocese.

One Redemptorist official testified in district court that he advised “Doe” the order “would be happy to pay for counseling … when there has been somebody who feels they have been abused,” the opinion says.


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