15 Men Settle Molest Suit against 3 Bay Priests

By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
March 22, 1996

Ending nearly two years of bitter negotiations, 15 men who say they were sexually molested by three Bay Area priests will collect $ 2.5 million in exchange for settling their highly publicized lawsuit against Catholic church leaders in San Francisco and Santa Rosa, their lawyer said yesterday.

Lawyers on both sides of the case said this week that the last three plaintiffs have settled their claims in the civil court action against the Rev. Austin Patrick Keegan, Monsignor Patrick O'Shea, the Rev. Gary Timmons and their religious superiors.

Eleven of the 15 men made their accusations against Timmons, a North Coast priest who still faces criminal child molestation charges in Mendocino County.

"Every one of those guys wants him to go to jail. They are not satisfied by this resolution," said Walnut Creek attorney Michael Meadows, one of three lawyers who filed the lawsuit in May 1994 in San Francisco Superior Court.

"There is still a lot of residual anger," Meadows said.

The 15 men, the youngest of whom is now in his late 20s, said they suffered severe humiliation and lingering emotional distress from fondling and other sexual acts that occurred between 1969 and 1980, when they were between the ages of 11 and 18.

Keegan, a priest accused of molestations in both the San Francisco and Santa Rosa dioceses, fled to Mexico.

O'Shea, a San Francisco priest who was one of then-Archbishop John Quinn's most trusted advisers, made a small but "symbolic" contribution toward the settlement, Meadows said.

"Any assets Timmons has are going to pay for his criminal attorneys," the lawyer added.

All three men have been relieved of their priestly duties. Church officials in both dioceses have already issued public apologies when previous settlements were announced.

Criminal charges against O'Shea are still pending, but on hold until the California Supreme Court settles questions regarding the statute of limitations.

Meadows said the settlements for his 15 clients will total around $ 2.5 million. He said about half of the payments will be covered by liability insurance and half by other church funds.

San Francisco attorney Paul Gaspari, who represents both the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Santa Rosa, declined to give settlement figures.

Asked about remaining civil cases involving molestation accusations, Gaspari said, "There are other pending claims I can't talk about."


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