Sex-Abuse Suit Settlement Falls through Two Families Claim an Oswego Priest Abused Their Children. One Family Refuses to Sign a Statement the Other Is Still Negotiating

By Melanie Gleaves-Hirsch and Jim O'Hara
Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
July 21, 1998

One family that alleges a priest molested two young Oswego County boys in the late 1980s backed away from settling its multimillion-dollar lawsuit Monday, balking at signing a statement that denied the priest and church had done anything wrong.

As of Monday night, the family planned to pursue its civil suit in a trial next month in state Supreme Court in Syracuse. Lawyers for a second family, which alleges the same priest abused their son, continued negotiations for a settlement with lawyers representing the priest and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.

"Talks are continuing as we speak," said the father in the second family, who alleges his then-11-year-old son was abused by the priest. "Our reasons (for not settling) were different. ... Let's just say the settlement was unsatisfactory."

The two lawsuits had been scheduled to go to trial Monday, but Supreme Court Justice William R. Roy was erroneously informed by lawyers over the weekend that the cases had been settled. Reached at his home Monday night, Roy said he has now learned the cases have not been settled.

Earlier Monday, the diocese issued an erroneous statement that the "case has been resolved." The priest, the Rev. Daniel W. Casey Jr., has resigned from the priesthood, diocesan officials said Monday.

OFFICIALS OF the 373,000-member diocese said they could not answer specific questions on the cases, such as whether the diocese is insured against lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.

"Upon the advice of our legal counsel, we are not able to speak directly on any specifics of the case," the diocese's statement said.

The mother who alleges the priest abused her two sons, then ages 10 and 11, said she could not sign a paper clearing the priest and diocese of wrongdoing.

"I didn't want the money, because the money would have silenced me," she said.

" ... I wanted my day in court," the mother said.

The woman said she had indicated during pretrial negotiations Friday that she would settle out of court. She said she balked later, after studying a statement she had been asked to sign.

THE STATEMENT said the priest and diocese denied any liability and "wrongdoing," she said. The statement also said the priest, diocese and a Catholic school in Oswego deny "any and all allegations of ... negligence, departure from accepted standards, breach of trust, malpractice, vicarious liability or other culpable conduct."

The lawsuit alleges that Casey, then a priest ministering in Oswego, sexually abused the woman's two sons in December 1987 in a shower room at the State University College at Oswego.

A second family filed a lawsuit, alleging the priest molested a third boy in the same area of Laker Hall in two incidents between Aug. 1, 1988, and Jan. 31, 1989.

The families of the three boys, all now young men, also accuse St. Paul's Church and St. Paul's Elementary School, both in Oswego, and the diocese of negligence. The families assert the diocese, church and school did not investigate Casey's background.

The Oswego mother of the two boys said her suit originally sought $16 million in damages.

She said the diocese last week offered her a settlement in the thousands of dollars, not the millions. She refused to name the amount, but said it was an sum adequate to buy each of her two grown sons a modest used car.

DURING PRETRIAL negotiations Friday, the woman indicated to lawyers for both sides that she would sign the agreement, the Oswego mother said Monday. The lawyers, in turn, told Roy that the case had been settled before trial.

Over the weekend, however, the woman had second thoughts. "I talked to a lot of people who urged me not to sign," she said. "I wouldn't sign even though some other people said, 'It's only words.'

"To the victims (of sexual abuse), to the children, (signing) would have meant that what we did was all for naught.

"... The only publicity I'm looking for is the truth," the woman said Monday night. "... I just want to reach out to other victims and tell them they're not alone, and that they can have their day in court. I want other victims to know there is help for them ... and that they should not ever settle for a monetary amount to buy their silence."

The family of the third boy said their lawyers had advised them not to provide details of negotiations or the major sticking points in the talks. They said reports that the suits had been settled before trial were wrong.

"It wasn't fair for anyone to say anything was settled until it (the papers) were signed," the third boy's father said.


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