Utah priest abuse lawsuit poses new challenge to time limits on old cases

By Annie Knox
November 29, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — What began as a routine visit to the deli aisle last year ended in a revelation for Guy Platt.

Platt spotted the Colosimo name on a pork sausage label and wondered if it belonged to a member of the family he recalled from childhood. But an online search turned up a series of mugshots and a more profound connection.

The man he said he remembers sexually abusing and threatening him five decades earlier hadn't been a schoolmate's father like he'd thought. Rather, he was a Roman Catholic priest later convicted of victimizing boys in Michigan and Oklahoma, and accused of similar conduct in Utah.

"I was having heart palpitations, those kind of feelings that you get when you're angry and in shock and when you feel guilty," Platt recalled in a recent interview.

As adults, Utah brothers Matthew and Ralph Colosimo came forward as victims of repeated abuse by James Rapp in the years following Platt's own alleged encounters with the onetime cleric.

Platt is now suing the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City for damages of more than $300,000, contending the diocese knew Rapp was "wholly unfit to work around children" but allowed him to do so.

The defrocked priest is serving a prison term in Oklahoma after pleading guilty to later allegations of sexual abuse connected to his work. In 2016, he was sentenced in Michigan to at least 20 years for similar crimes during the 1980s.

The Colosimo brothers lost their legal effort in 2007 after the Utah Supreme Court determined the case was too old.

But Platt believes he has good odds based on his recent discovery of Rapp's clerical status. Utah law provides a four-year window to sue after a person finds out someone has improperly concealed facts that would support a legal claim.

Attorney Eric Olson said his client missed the typical deadline to sue because he alleges the diocese kept the abuse secret until after the time ran out. A nun who saw one assault threatened the boy instead of reporting the behavior to police or his parents, Olson said.

"There was a nun who walked in on it, and then the conduct continued to happen," said Olson. So there's really no question that they knew about it in our mind."

Two years ago, the diocese said Rapp was among 19 clergymen at the heart of credible allegations of sexual abuse dating to 1950. It disclosed that Rapp abused at least four minors in Utah from 1969 to 1975, Platt alleges in his lawsuit filed in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court.

Those named in the lawsuit "subsequently moved Rapp to locations outside of Utah to conceal Rapp's misconduct, and in hopes that he would change with a fresh start," it says.

The diocese declined comment. But it has previously said it is saddened by the allegation and did not know of any such abuse, which it called "abhorrent," in the four years Rapp taught high school students in Utah. A policy in place since 1990 mandates reporting to authorities and pastoral outreach for alleged victims, according to a statement on its website.



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