Religious Group Settles with Family of Allegedly Abused Teen

By Matthew Warner
July 16, 2011

SARASOTA COUNTY - A religious group out of Illinois has agreed to pay a Nokomis family more than one and a half million dollars after one of its priests was arrested and charged for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy.

Father William Wert was arrested last February for his alleged sexual relationship with the young boy. The two met in an online chat room months prior.

But detectives soon learned that Wert had been in trouble with the law before in a similar situation. That's when Venice attorney Geoffery Morris decided to go after the religious group that was supposed to be monitoring Wert's every move.

Morris tells ABC 7 that the Order of the Carmelites will give the family $1.75 million. “This was an error of judgment sending him down here and not being supervised,” says Morris.

The story begins back in 2007. Wert was convicted of misdemeanor assault on a 14-year old in Washington DC. Authorities say the priest touched the boy's thigh.

After 15 days in jail, the Order of the Carmelites transferred Wert to Venice, Florida, hoping for a fresh start. But from September 2010 to January 2011, Wert allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 14-year old boy from Nokomis. “The young man made a mistake by going on this gay teen chat site, but certainly nothing to generate this kind of response,” says Morris.

In February, Wert was arrested again. He faces numerous charges stemming from his relationship with the boy. “The family is devastated. The young man is in counseling, the mother and father are besides themselves, as you might expect…it's a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Morris says the Order of the Carmelites should have been monitoring their priest like they said they would.

Judy Jones with the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused By Priests agrees with Morris. “I'm very glad that he was able to get such a large settlement, and it tells all of us just how bad this guy is.”

Even with the large settlement, Morris says there are no winners. “He still has the cloud hanging over his head and has many years of counseling ahead.”

ABC 7’s calls to the Order of the Carmelites went unanswered.

Wert remains in the Sarasota County Jail. His trial is expected to start in October



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