Second Landmark Fraud Trial against Green Bay Diocese Underway in Nevada
October 11, 2012
Second landmark fraud trial against Green Bay Diocese underway in Nevada
Case involves notorious sex predator priest Fr. John Patrick Feeney
Las Vegas jury likely to examine new evidence not seen during landmark Wisconsin trial
Statement by John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director
The Diocese of Green Bay is on trial this week in Las Vegas Nevada charged with negligence and fraud. This is the second time this year that the Green Bay diocese will appear in court charged with knowingly endangering children by exposing them to their most notorious sex offending priest, Fr. John Patrick Feeney.
The civil trial, which began this week, originated with a lawsuit filed in 2008 by John Doe 119 who reports that he was sexually assaulted as a 13 year old boy by Fr. Feeney when he was a student at St. Francis de Sales parish in Las Vegas. The suit which charges the Green Bay Catholic Diocese with fraud and negligence also names the Bishop of Las Vegas, the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas and John Patrick Feeney as defendants.
Church officials in Green Bay Wisconsin attempted to have Doe’s lawsuit thrown out of court due to the statutes of limitations, however in 2010 the Nevada Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, ruled that Doe’s case could proceed.
Attorneys for the victim are expected to demonstrate in court this week that the Green Bay Diocese was aware that Fr. Feeney was a dangerous sexual predator long before they allowed him to function as a priest in Las Vegas.
The Diocese of Green Bay was on trial earlier this year in Wisconsin charged with fraud for their role in transferring and facilitating Feeney’s crimes against children. The Wisconsin lawsuit was also a landmark case, having been the first time that victims of child sexual assault by Catholic clergy were able to bring church officials to trial in a Wisconsin courtroom.
A jury in that case determined that the Green Bay Diocese had committed fraud by placing Feeney into unsuspecting parishes where he had virtually unlimited access to children and where he would later go on to assault the Merryfield brothers. The Merryfield’s were awarded $700,000 by the jury. The verdict was later nullified by the trial judge, however, ruling that a jury member did not disclose information required by the court before being empanelled. The Diocese of Green Bay was granted a new trial scheduled for May of 2013.
It is anticipated that members of the Las Vegas jury will be presented with evidence not seen at the Wisconsin trial. Members of the Merryfield family are also expected to testify in Las Vegas.
The Diocese of Green Bay has a long standing practice of attempting to evade responsibility for the crimes of their sex offending clerics. Fr. Feeney is just one of 51 clerics that Green Bay church officials have received reports of sexual assault or misconduct on over the past few decades. The diocese has refused repeated pleas from victims and their families to publically identify the names and locations of their sex offending clergy leaving additional children at risk.
The trial underway in Las Vegas is one of the few opportunities that will exist to hold the Green Bay diocese accountable for decades of sexual violence inflicted upon children. In a deposition prepared for this very case Green Bay church officials admitted to shredding evidence of child sex crimes making it extremely difficult to hold sexual predators accountable for their criminal behavior.
The brave victim in this case, John Doe 119, is to be commended for holding the Green Bay Diocese accountable for concealing and facilitating decades of child sex crimes. Children in Nevada and Wisconsin are safer today because of his courage.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our national website is SNAPnetwork.org. The local Wisconsin website is SNAPwisconsin.com.