Judge Throws out Suit against Accused Priest

By Tara Dooley
Houston Chronicle
August 30, 2002

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a retired Catholic priest and the Diocese of Galveston-Houston that alleged the priest sexually abused a boy in the 1970s.

U.S. District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent ruled the case against the Rev. Jesse S. Linam was not filed within the time limitations allowed by law. The abuse is alleged to have occurred about 28 years ago, when the plaintiff was a parishioner at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Channelview. Felecia Y. Peavy, attorney for the unnamed plaintiff, said that she was disappointed with the decision and that Kent and the diocese did not "appreciate the inherent social value in the case involving the sexual abuse of minors."

In a request for the judge to reconsider his ruling filed in Galveston on Thursday, Peavy argued her client is entitled to establish in court that the time limitation should be lifted because his mental state "rendered him unable to enforce his legal rights against the defendants."

"By dismissing all of plaintiff's claims against the defendants, plaintiff is denied the opportunity to present evidence of plaintiff's continuous mental incapacity which, by law, suspends all prescribed limitations," Peavy wrote in the motion for reconsideration.

The diocese chose a defense based on time limitations because the law recognizes that "memories fade," said diocese spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor. The suit was filed in Galveston on July 1 and dismissed Aug. 20. In it, the plaintiff, now an adult living in California, claimed that Linam sexually abused him from the fall of 1973 through the summer of 1974. He sought $ 14 million in damages.

In court papers, the plaintiff claimed that the diocese "knew or should have known of (Linam's) dangerous sexual propensities."

Linam was a priest at St. Andrew from 1973 to 1985, according to court papers. He was permanently removed from ministry in August 1993 after the diocese learned of allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor that had occurred years earlier, Taylor said.

Under new rules set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June, Linam was informed June 20 that he could no longer wear clerical dress and present himself as a priest, she said.


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