Attorneys: Settlements reached with 88 former Bishop McCort students in Baker abuse case

By Dave Sutor
October 21, 2014

Garabedian, Baker & Serbin

Eighty-eight former Bishop McCort High School students who Brother Stephen Baker sexually abused will receive a combined $8 million in compensation.

A settlement, involving four parties – the victims, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Province of the Immaculate Conception of the Third Order Regular Franciscans and Bishop McCort Catholic High School, was announced on Tuesday.

Baker, whose January 2013 death has been ruled a suicide, abused the children when he served as an athletic trainer at the Johnstown school from 1992 through 2001.

“The victims of Brother Stephen Baker should be proud of themselves for having the strength to step up and fight such devastating evil,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney for almost three dozen of the accusers.

Richard Serbin, an Altoona lawyer who represents some of the other molestation victims, added: “No amount of money eliminates the emotional and physical pain of having been sexually molested by someone you trust and respect. By coming forward, these brave young people took action in an effort to prevent other children from being sexually abused.

“Collectively they have sent a message to employers who protect child predators.”

Each victim will receive somewhere between $60,000 and slightly more than $120,000, according to Garabedian. The payment depends on the extent of the abuse, duration of the abuse and impact on the individual.

“The diocese hopes that this outcome will allow the victims to seek counseling and find the healing and comfort they deserve,” Bishop Mark Bartchak said. “We continue to pray for them and all victims of sexual abuse.”

Garabedian, who has been involved in sexual abuse cases since the 1970s, called it “not the highest nor the lowest” settlement he has seen.

Bishop McCort’s victims represent a fraction of the children allegedly molested by Baker in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota.

“The amount of carnage caused by Brother Stephen Baker was almost endless,” Garabedian said.

Even with the settlement, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has called for a continued investigation into the Baker case.

“The bishops in every diocese where Baker worked should one, explain why they hid accusations against and/or settlements involving Baker; two, disclose whether Baker allegedly molested in their area; and three, use their archdiocesan websites, archdiocesan newspapers, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Baker’s crimes to come forward,” according to SNAP’s official statement.

“We believe these prelates have violated the U.S. bishops’ national abuse policy, which mandates ‘openness and transparency’ in clergy sex cases.

“We believe the silence of these Catholic officials also gives wrongdoers like Baker and his complicit church supervisors ample opportunity to intimidate victims, threaten whistleblowers, discredit witnesses, destroy evidence and fabricate alibis.”

No details were immediately available concerning how much each organization will pay as part of the settlement.

Bishop McCort Catholic High School, an independent 501-C3 corporation, came into existence in 2008. It is legally a different entity than Bishop McCort High School, which was under diocese control when Baker abused his victims.

“The school, as it currently exists and as it was constituted in 2008 is Bishop McCort Catholic High School – not Bishop McCort High School,” Matt Beynon, a spokesman for the school’s current board of trustees, said “The Bishop McCort Catholic High School Board of Trustees continues to keep all the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”



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