Suit Adds Diocese to Sex Claims

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post Online
June 16, 2006

BRIDGEPORT — A former city resident, who last year won a $10.9 million judgment against a former landscaper he claims sexually abused him at St. Theresa's Church in Trumbull more than 30 years ago, sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport Thursday.

In the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court, Michael Powel claims the diocese was negligent in failing to prevent the landscaper, Carlo Fabbozzi, from sexually abusing him.

The suit also claims that Fabbozzi, after abusing Powel, turned him over to the Rev. Joseph Gorecki, who also abused Powel.

"There is no question that he [Fabbozzi] was a diocese employee and I have evidence to support that," said Powel's lawyer, Helen McGonigle. "Fabbozzi was an usher in the church, he was director of CYO [Catholic Youth Organization], he was intimately involved with the parish."

As to the claim of abuse by the priest, McGonigle said Powel had memories of being abused by a priest at St. Theresa's Church, but it was only after doing some research that he realized Gorecki had abused him.

But diocese lawyer James Stapleton said diocese officials have talked to Powel in the past about his claims of abuse and don't find his claim against Gorecki credible.

"He has given two or three different names of priests he thought had molested him and we just don't find him credible, and we are going to contest his claim," Stapleton said.

In 2003 the diocese agreed to pay settlements to six people who claimed to have been abused by Gorecki in the 1960s and '70s. Gorecki died in 1988.

As to Fabbozzi, Stapleton said the diocese maintains he was not an employee of the diocese and therefore it is not responsible for his actions. "He was a gardener who had a lot of clients and the church was one of them," he said.

Last July, following a trial that Fabbozzi, 78, did not attend and was not represented at, a Superior Court jury found in favor of Powel, who now lives in Florida, and awarded him $5 million. A judge later increased the award to $10.9 million. But Fabbozzi claims to be destitute and has not paid Powel a dime.

Powel, 48, who grew up in Bridgeport, claims he was sexually abused by Fabbozzi in the late 1960s and early 1970s at St. Theresa's Parish in Trumbull and at his home. At the time Fabbozzi worked as a landscaper at the church and is alleged to have employed young children, including Powel, whom he allegedly abused.

Fabbozzi, who later worked as a janitor at the church, was fired by the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese in April 2002, after Powel's allegations became public.

The lawsuit claims Fabbozzi introduced the then 12-year-old Powel to Gorecki, who sexually assaulted Powel in the boys' bathroom at St. Theresa's school in the winter of 1971.

Powel also has a pending lawsuit claiming a priest in Missouri abused him, and he says he was abused by the late Skipper Toth, a well-known Easton school bus driver and Boy Scout leader.



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