Attorneys: Settlement halt revictimizes alleged victims

By Maria Miller
April 28, 2014

[with video]

ALTOONA, Pa. -- It's a story 6 News first reported on Friday: Negotiations set to begin between the church and alleged victims of a former trainer at Bishop McCort Catholic High School have been postponed. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown , only commenting through a statement, said it wouldn't be right to start civil matters before a criminal investigation by the attorney general's office is complete. The decision is not sitting well with alleged victims and their attorneys. Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 33 of Brother Stephen Baker's alleged victims, said his clients are being revictimized by the diocese' decision. He said they were willing and ready to mediate this week, but are now left with no choice but to file suit. "Why on the eve of the mediations would they all of a sudden say, 'oh we've changed our minds, we're not going to proceed?'" said Garabedian. In a statement, the diocese said "It would be inappropriate for (them) to proceed with the civil matters while the attorney general's investigation is active." Garabedian is all for that investigation but said the diocese shouldn't have used it as an excuse when it's known about it for at least three months. "These dates were reserved, monies were paid to hire the mediator, flights have been scheduled, the victims are all ready to resolve these cases and all of a sudden they decide in a finger snap that they've changed their minds," Garabedian said. "It's a revictimization. It's more pain and more harm towards the victims." "Why at the last minute, Bishop Bartchak, did you withdraw from those negations and place dozens of sexual abuse victims at risk again," asked Robert Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery, a non - profit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families, including several Johnstown, Pennsylvania, area victims and families. Hoatson spent most of the day Monday asking the same questions as Garabedian while he protested outside the diocese headquarters in Altoona. "If Bartchak) has specific information about criminal investigations or civil matters or whatever, make it known," Hoatson said. "Many of these cases are rock solid. They're very strong, they're within the statute of limitation, the diocese had notice before Brother Baker came to Pennsylvania that he was a sexual abuser. There's liability, causation, breach of duty and damages," Garabedian said. "We're going to litigate these cases. We have no choice." This would have been the first set of talks for the Diocese of Altoona- Johnstown. Similar settlements have already been reached for alleged victims at other schools and dioceses where Baker spent time. The results of those talks, though, remain confidential.



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