Sex Abuse Suit against Former Fire Chaplain Settled for $750,000

By Elizabeth Hamilton
Hartford Courant
January 27, 2009,0,4617652.story

It took more than six years and the intervention of a Superior Court judge to get the Rev. Stephen Foley to show up for a deposition, but a molestation lawsuit involving the former fire chaplain has finally settled on the eve of a trial for $750,000.

The settlement in the case also came with a stipulation by the plaintiff William Noll that a videotape of the priest being questioned during his deposition be available to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Hartford has now settled at least 13 lawsuits involving Foley, who was both a parish priest and a fire and police chaplain before he was removed from his parish in 1993. He was ordered not to wear his Roman collar or act as a priest in public in 2002.

Foley has been accused by numerous men of luring them with his pseudo-police cruiser, which was loaded with lights, sirens and scanners, when they were young teenagers, getting them drunk and then molesting them.

The allegation brought by Noll dates back to 1978, when Foley was working as associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Windsor Locks and Noll was a 14-year-old boy. Noll's attorney, Robert Reardon, said Noll was not a member of Foley's church; instead, Reardon said, the two met at a convenience store in town.

"[Foley] came in to the store and had his Roman collar on and his police cruiser parked outside," Reardon said. The priest invited Noll to go for a ride in the car, which Noll accepted, and the abuse started soon after that, the lawyer said.

The lawsuit, which was withdrawn Monday when the settlement was finalized, alleged that Foley molested Noll until he was 16 in both Connecticut and at a cottage in Cape Cod.

Reardon, released a five-minute segment of the deposition to the media Tuesday that shows the priest denying that he ever took Noll or any other young teenage boys to a friend's cottage on Cape Cod. Foley has been accused by numerous men of molesting them at the cottage.

Noll said Tuesday that Foley maintains they've never met.

"I would have loved for (Foley) to have seen me in person because even to this day, he denies knowing me," Noll said during a phone interview from his home in Florida. "I'd just like him to acknowledge that I exist, that this happened and that he is guilty."

Foley, wearing a v-neck sweater and a bandage on his forehead at his Oct. 27 deposition, didn't seem to come even close to admitting guilt.

In the portion of the video released by Reardon, Foley not only denied taking any boys to the cottage, he also denied knowing the names of any of the "young adults" which Foley defined as anyone 18 or over - he did take there.

The exchange between Foley and Reardon was sparing and sharp.

"Can you remember the names of any of the so-called young adults that you took up there seven or eight times?" Reardon asked.

"No sir."

"Now these are people you spent the night up there with right?"

"Perhaps. If you're saying so."

"And you don't remember the names of any of them?"

"Not off the top of my head, no."

"Well, let's give you a moment to think."


"You're sure you can't remember the names of any of them?"

"No, I do not."

"Do you need any time to think about that?"

"No sir."

Noll's lawsuit against the archdiocese also alleged that Foley's superiors should have known the priest was a threat to children. Reardon said the archdiocese received its first complaint about Foley in the mid to late 1960s, shortly after the priest was ordained.

The person who made that complain - a teenager enrolled at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield testified about his experience in a deposition for the Noll case, Reardon said.

Noll sued the archdiocese in 2002, but the case hung fire for a number of reasons, Reardon said. One of the more recent delays revolved around Foley's failure to show up for a scheduled deposition in Arlington, VA last August.

It was the second time the priest had failed to attend a deposition he did the same thing in a different lawsuit that was also settled right before trial and a Superior Court judge in Connecticut, Robert B. Shapiro, lost patience.

Shapiro set a final deadline for the deposition last September, and warned Foley that if he missed the next deposition he would forfeit his right to defend himself against allegations in the civil case. The judge also found Foley and his attorneys in contempt of court.

Foley was living in Virginia when he was subpoenaed for the August deposition. He moved there in 2007 when he was ordered by the archdiocese to leave St. Thomas Seminary after the Courant reported that he was still driving around in a Ford Crown Victoria similar to the vehicle used by state troopers.

The archdiocese, which continues to pay Foley a $1,000 a month stipend and cover his health benefits, has refused to say where exactly Foley is living. This has prompted an outcry from clergy abuse survivors in both Connecticut and Virginia, who have called upon officials to publicly identify the priest's whereabouts.

The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the Hartford Archdiocese, did not return a call for comment Tuesday.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.