Priest in Southern Nevada Accused of Sexually Abusing Boys

Associated Press State & Local Wire
March 13, 2002

A Catholic priest in suburban Henderson has been named in a lawsuit alleging that he sexually abused six teen-age boys over the last four years.

The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, accuses the Rev. Mark Roberts of using his position to take advantage of the six boys when they sought counseling from him.

Church administrators are accused of investigating Roberts' actions but failing to act.

"This is a man who was in a very, very significant position of trust with these young men and their families," Al Massi, attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "What he did was absolutely inappropriate. Their trust in the church has been affected dramatically."

Roberts was suspended Feb. 21 from St. Peter the Apostle Church in Henderson.

Rachel Wilkie, a spokeswoman for a law firm representing the Diocese of Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal on Tuesday that Roberts was suspended and police were contacted as soon as the allegations surfaced.

She said the diocese is cooperating with police.

No criminal charges have been filed. Henderson police Officer Terry Bowler said detectives have been investigating since mid-February. He said the case should be submitted later this month to Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell to determine whether to prosecute.

Wilkie said Roberts is seeking medical treatment at an unspecified facility related to the allegations. She declined to elaborate.

The Roman Catholic Church has been shaken nationwide by a wave of clergy sexual abuse cases since January, when the Boston archdiocese was accused of ignoring years of warnings about a priest accused of molesting 130 people.

The priest, John J. Geoghan, was defrocked and is serving a 9- to 10-year prison sentence in Massachusetts for groping a 10-year-old boy. He also faces another criminal trial.

Sexual misconduct allegations have led to criminal charges, settlements and resignations of priests in other states, including California, Florida, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The lawsuit filed Monday lists as plaintiffs six males, now between the ages of 17 and 20 and living in southern Nevada, and their parents. None are identified by name.

Named as defendants are Roberts; the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas; Bishop Joseph A. Pepe, who was installed last year; and his predecessor, Daniel Walsh, now bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Massi said the six young men were minors when they sought counseling from Roberts and the alleged abuse occurred. The lawyer said the boys have since sought psychological counseling.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages of more than $10,000 from Roberts on grounds that include battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty.

It seeks unspecified damages of more than $10,000 from the diocese and bishops.


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