Archdiocese Hit with 3 More Suits

By Noaki Schwartz
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
February 4, 2003

Three more lawsuits alleging sexual abuse have been allowed to proceed toward trial over protests by the Miami Archdiocese that the statute of limitations ran out years ago.

The cases join at least four others, also alleging decades-old abuse, that have been allowed to proceed in recent weeks.

Attorneys typically have up to seven years after the incident to file civil cases on behalf of their clients claiming negligence and sexual battery, according to Florida law. But, in cases where there are allegations that the wrongdoing was covered up, plaintiffs' attorneys say the time constraints do not apply.

Undeterred, archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta says the archdiocese has "faith in the judicial system and will continue to move forward in whatever avenues are available to us."

Last week Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey decided a suit against the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio could go forward. Under the name Juan FR Doe, the now 35-year-old plaintiff said that the priest raped him in 1984. The El Salvadoran refugee was threatened with deportation when he reported the assault, said the plaintiff's attorney Russell S. Adler.

Also last week Miami Circuit Judge Michael Chavies denied an archdiocese motion to dismiss a case involving three unidentified girls allegedly molested at the Church of Saint Agatha in 1989, said the plaintiffs' attorney, Jeffrey M. Herman. The sisters, now in their early 20s, say they were assaulted by an elderly employee on church grounds and that then-pastor the Rev. Monsignor Felipe Estevez knew but did nothing. Estevez is now training future priests at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Miami Circuit Judge Ronald M. Friedman also recently allowed a suit filed by a former St. Brendan's altar boy against two Catholic priests to proceed, according to the plaintiff's attorney Sheldon Stevens. The plaintiff, who is now in his mid-30s and identified only as John Doe in court papers, said he was fondled by now-suspended Rev. Ricardo Castellanos and Jose Nickse from 1979 to 1982. Nickse died of a heart attack while on vacation in the Bahamas in December.

The four other lawsuits headed for trial include three more against Castellanos. Jose A. Currais Jr. and Kenneth Matias say in their suits that they were sexually abused by the priest in the early 1970s and late 1980s. A family is suing on behalf of their now-deceased son, saying he was molested by Castellanos and the Rev. Alvaro Guichard.

Also going forward is a suit brought by Thomas Murphy, who accuses the Rev. Ronald Luka of kissing and fondling him when he was 14 and forcing Murphy to reciprocate in the late 1970s.


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