Former Altar Boy Accuses Oak Harbor Priest of Sexual Abuse

By Jessie Stensland
Whidbey News Times
August 31, 2010

Another former altar boy has come forward to accuse a now-defrocked Oak Harbor priest of sexually abusing him 30 years ago.

A 42-year-old former Whidbey Island resident has filed a civil lawsuit in King County Superior Court against the Seattle Archdiocese for alleged childhood sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Barry Ashwell.

Ashwell served as pastor of St. Augustine Church in Oak Harbor from 1978 to 2000. The Archdiocese placed him on administrative leave when a sexual abuse allegation became public through a lawsuit in 2002.

Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the Archdiocese, explained that the Vatican took the rare and extraordinary step of laicizing, commonly known as defrocking, Ashwell over the sexual abuse allegation in 2005.

Magnoni also stressed that the alleged assault occurred 30 years ago.

Ashwell, who could not be reached for comment, has denied the allegations.

Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff is representing the alleged abuse victim, identified in court papers only as "T.C." Kosnoff said this client is the fifth man that he knows of who came forward and accused Ashwell of sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I'm sure there are other out there," he said.

According to the lawsuit, T.C. and his family were members of St. Augustine in the early 1980s. In 1981 or 1982, T.C. met Ashwell at Sunday school and spent the night at the parish with the priest on a number of occasions.

On the last night he stayed at the parish, T.C. awoke to find Ashwell molesting him, the lawsuit claims.

Kosnoff claims that the Archdiocese had received numerous reports of Ashwell sexually abusing children prior to the incident, but did nothing and allowed him to continue to have access to young people.

In fact, the lawsuit describes Ashwell as a "serial sexual predator" and claims that the Archdiocese had concealed his abuse of children.

Kosnoff said he's previously represented two other victims of Ashwell and won settlements with the Archdiocese, which he described as "between $400,000 and $1 million."

Kosnoff said T.C. is coming forward with the allegation and lawsuit now because his own child has reached the age at which he was abused, which the attorney claims is not uncommon. According to Kosnoff, a child's birth or reaching of some other milestone often sparks a person to reexamine their lives and explore events that may have been repressed.

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