New Orleans Deacon Faces Three New Lawsuits for Sex Abuse
By Anita Carey
December 13, 2018
Three new victims are suing over abuse they suffered as young boys at the hands of a suspected serial pedophile.
A lawsuit filed on Tuesday is the fourth one alleging homosexual abuse by the former archdiocese of New Orleans deacon, George F. Brignac. All four cases stemmed from Brignac's tenure at Holy Rosary School in New Orleans, Lousiana. The first suit was settled by the archdiocese for $500,000 in May.
The three new allegations date from the 1980s, and Brignac's attorney, Martin Regan, told The New Orleans Advocate that his client "has denied the allegations and he's not been charged or convicted of any criminal offense."
While two of the victims have not come forward publicly, Morris Daniels told his story to The New Orleans Advocate to showcase the Church's failure to stop the abuse. Daniels said, "They could've done something about it but they didn't."
"They didn't take care of us as kids. They just let it happen," he added.
Daniels claimed during his time at Holy Rosary, Brignac supported him after other kids teased him for being overweight. Brignac would take him to a local store for treats, eventually following him into a bathroom stall where he masturbated while fondling him.
The abuse soon escalated to sodomy and forced oral sex.
"He would take advantage of me and as a kid, I didn't see anything wrong with this," Daniels told Fox 8. "He told me he loved me."
Daniels' lawsuit against the archdiocese of New Orleans, filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, does not name Brignac. He is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
Roger Stetter, Daniels' attorney, said he tried to settle this in mediation but "the Church started to nickel and dime my clients."
The lawsuit lists "post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, panic attacks, inability to trust others and enjoy normal sexual relations, lack of self-control and a variety of other psychological ailments … [as well as] under-achievement in school and at work."
Daniels also claims his boyhood dream of becoming a priest was destroyed, he had drug problems and multiple failed marriages.
Daniels claims to have repressed the memories of Brignac's abuse until he saw news coverage of the Brignac settlement. A signed statement from a licensed clinical social worker, included with the lawsuit, found "a reasonable basis that George Brignac subjected [Daniels] to criminal sexual molestation during his childhood."
A criminal investigation has been opened by New Orleans police, but as of yet, Brignac has not been charged. Daniels and his wife, Angie, hope coming forward will pressure authorities into acting as well as shed light on the signs of child abuse.
Daniels told The Advocate, "As a firefighter, I've been through the wringer — dealt with dead bodies, severed limbs. I even had to pull my own children out of a crashed car with the Jaws of Life."
"I thought I'd done the hardest things in life possible. But ... having these memories flood back, having to explain what's happened to me to my [loved ones] has been the hardest thing in my life," he explained.
Brignac's settlement for allegedly grooming and raping an 8-year-old boy was not the first instance. He was investigated twice, in 1977 and again in 1980 for sexual misconduct with at least six other pre-pubescent boys.
The first allegations surfaced within a year of Brignac being ordained a deacon. He was working at St. Matthew the Apostle as a teacher and he would select boys for after-school tutoring that included time on his lap and him rubbing their genitals — witnessed by the other boys.
Despite admitting his misconduct to St. Matthew school officials, he was kept on the job for several months. A mother of one of the four boys that accused Brignac said, "We went to the principal, the parish priest, the psychiatrist, the superintendent, and felt from all of them that they didn't seem to think this was a problem."
Parents that objected were encouraged to move their children to a different school in those years.
Brignac was eventually arrested but Judge Fred Bowes acquitted him after his attorney successfully argued the boys' testimony was a conspiracy.
One of the boy's mothers believed the verdict was "preordained." She said clergy "in complete regalia" went into the judge's chambers during the trial.
Brignac's second criminal investigation, in 1980, was run by a New Orleans police detective, Stanley C. Burkhardt, who was later convicted for molesting boys and distributing child pornography. The investigation resulted in an arrest, but no prosecution. Burkhardt's case report noted the archdiocese of New Orleans gave him the runaround but eventually he determined no sexual contact had occurred.
The archdiocese of New Orleans had known about Brignac's abuse allegations since 1977 but it took 11 years for the diocese to act. He was barred from public ministry in 1988.
Despite that ban, until June of this year, Brignac was serving as a lector at St. Mary Magdalen parish in Metairie, Louisiana — only three miles away from the parish he was accused of abusing boys, Our Lady of the Rosary. The diocese of New Orleans claimed they learned Brignac was still serving as a lector after Abp. Gregory Aymond issued a statement informing parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary about the allegations against Brignac while he served there.
Archbishop Aymond said he took "immediate action" to stop Brignac from serving as a lector, removing him three days later on June 25. Archbishop Aymond explained, "The priest who okayed Mr. Brignac as serving as a lector knew that he had been removed from diaconate ministry and should never have granted permission."
"I'm not going to deny that I have touched a child," Brignac told The Advocate in July. "I would not have gone into teaching if I were not attracted to children." He insisted that the touching wasn't immoral, explaining a psychologist he went to found that it was "asexual."
"Any actions of intimacy between my students and me — and family and me — have no sexual motive," Brignac said.
In an interview with Fox 8 in August, Brignac was asked if he would make an apology to the boys. He replied, "I've always been apologetic to anything I did wrong if I did anything wrong." When asked point blank if he molested any boys, Brignac replied, "No."
Stetter said he hopes the Church sees what these sex abuse victims have gone through and has sympathy. He said if mediation doesn't work, "They're going to be hit with two more rape cases in January, a rape suit in February and they may be hit with another one in March." Stetter added, "Do they want to go to war with me? I'm not afraid of litigation."