Judge Won't Cloak Witness Identities

By Diana Baldwin
Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, OK]
July 12, 2003

The identity of people in addition to the plaintiff who said they were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest will not be kept secret in a lawsuit against the Oklahoma City Archdiocese and a retired priest, an Oklahoma County judge ruled Friday.

Philip Schovanec is suing retired priest David B. Imming, Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran and the archdiocese because he claims he was sexually abused by Imming 20 years ago and church officials ignored his complaints.

There might be six other victims whom Schovanec's attorneys want to be witnesses, according to court records.

When asked by The Oklahoman about the number of victims, H. Blanton Brown, Schovanec's attorney, said, "There are many more."

Brown asked District Judge Bryan Dixon to keep the victims' names confidential because public disclosure would be embarrassing to the victims.

"These witnesses are already concerned about the extremely personal and intimate information they will have to provide about sexual abuse perpetrated upon them and those known to them," Brown said in court records.

In making his ruling, the judge said, "Everyone needs to know if they're coming to court to testify."

Glenn Devoll, attorney for two of the potential witnesses, told The Oklahoman, "My clients don't want to be involved in this matter."

Imming maintains his innocence.

Attorneys for the defendants declined to comment after Friday's hearing.

Brown said, "We're going forward and prove our case."

Imming was priest and pastor of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Enid and later was pastor of a Catholic church in Alva. He retired in 2002 and lives in St. Mary's, Kan.

Beltran was named Oklahoma City archbishop in 1995.

Schovanec met Imming when the boy's father died in 1981.

In the lawsuit, Schovanec claims Imming sexually abused him from 1982 to 1984. It is alleged Imming provided Schovanec, who was 13 years old in 1982, with alcohol and carried out the acts of sexual abuse at the priest's parsonage and at Imming's parents' home.

The lawsuit states Schovanec repressed memories of the abuse until April 2002, when he "recalled for the first time the abuse he suffered at the hands of Imming."

Court documents added to the lawsuit since it was filed March 31 give detailed descriptions about Schovanec's claims dating to 1981.

Schovanec alleges Imming provided alcohol for minors, encouraged them to remove their clothing and touched and fondled minors for sexual gratification, according to court records filed Friday.

Schovanec claims he was fondled during a fishing trip at a small pond south of Waukomis and during a church-sponsored event in the winter of 1981, in a church parishioner's hot tub and while skinny dipping in a river while traveling from Enid to Duncan where the priest's parents lived, court documents state.


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