Lawsuit Alleges Sex Abuse at Boys Town

By Todd Cooper
Omaha World Herald
October 5, 2005

A Wyoming man has sued Girls and Boys Town, saying he was molested more than two dozen times by a priest in the mid-1980s.

Darren Boudreau, 34, filed a lawsuit last week in Douglas County District Court against Boys Town and the Rev. Richard Colbert, who was removed from the home for troubled teens in 1988.

Boudreau said Colbert, who is currently a priest in Missouri, assaulted him at least 25 times from mid-1985 to mid-1986 while he lived and studied at Boys Town.

Colbert, pastor at St. Ann Catholic Church in Warsaw, Mo., could not be reached for comment. His secretary said he was out of the office until Thursday.

Boys Town officials and an attorney representing the supervisor of Colbert's religious order said the matter would be investigated.

The suit said leaders of the west Omaha facility failed to supervise Colbert while Colbert was a priest and a religion teacher at the home.

In a 2003 interview with The World-Herald, Colbert denied any sexual wrongdoing while at Boys Town.

Colbert acknowledged that he was investigated for an incident involving a Boys Town student who was being treated for a seizure disorder at the St. Joseph Center for Mental Health. He said the incident involved him touching the boy in his "thigh, rump area" over his clothes to calm the boy while the boy was having a seizure.

Colbert said the relationship he had with the student -- which involved several dinner outings -- was inappropriate but said it was not sexual. The boy had alleged the relationship was sexual but later recanted that allegation.

Boudreau said he was not the boy referred to in that investigation -- nor did he suffer from a seizure disorder.

In fact, Boudreau said, he didn't reveal the extent of Colbert's abuse until a couple of years ago, when he underwent counseling to deal with his mental illnesses. Boudreau said he has been in and out of psychiatric wards for the past decade.

In the lawsuit, Boudreau said he has suffered from severe depression since childhood -- depression that caused him to repress memories of the assaults. Colbert's assaults, he said, scarred him for life.

Boudreau, who was at Boys Town from 1985 to 1989, alleges that Colbert performed sex acts on him and coerced him into performing sex acts on the priest. The lawsuit claims Colbert developed "unhealthy, psychologically dependent relationships" with male students "to recruit them for sex."

Boudreau's attorney, Patrick Noaker, whose firm represents other people alleging priest assaults at Boys Town and across the country, said Boys Town failed in its duty to protect Boudreau and other students by not adequately supervising Colbert.

In 2003, James Martin Davis, an attorney representing Boys Town, said the Rev. Val Peter, then the executive director, handled the investigation of Colbert personally and swiftly.

A dozen employees described Colbert's removal as hushed -- a charge Peter and Boys Town denied.

After leaving Boys Town in 1988, Colbert went to work in Missouri. He served three Missouri parishes before landing at Warsaw, a resort town of 2,000 near Truman Lake, 80 miles southeast of Kansas City.

Before Boys Town, he was at parishes in North Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Nebraska City.

After sex abuse allegations surfaced against priests nationwide in 2002, the Rev. Mark Miller, Colbert's former supervisor, said he reviewed the incident with the boy at the hospital and again decided not to remove Colbert from the ministry.

In 2003, Girls and Boys Town denied Colbert's claims that he, Boys Town and his priestly order agreed that Colbert should leave Boys Town.

Instead, Boys Town released a statement then that called Colbert's termination "involuntary and unilateral on the part of Boys Town."

Tuesday, the Rev. Steve Boes, who succeeded Peter as executive director of Boys Town, released a statement saying Boys Town would continue "our standard of thoroughly investigating allegations of any activity that would harm a child.

"We are not negligent, sloppy, nor cover things up; and we have a record and reputation to back that," Boes said in the statement. "If anyone abuses a child, we will go after that person and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."


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