Tukwila Man Claims Molestation by Two Now-Deceased Priests

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
January 9, 2007

A Tukwila, Wash., man claims in a lawsuit filed Monday that he was sexually abused in the mid-1960s by two now-deceased Catholic priests who worked in the Catholic Diocese of Yakima.

The suit, which names the Corporation of the Catholic Bishop of Yakima and the estates of two deceased priests, was filed in Yakima County Superior Court by attorney Mary Fleck from the Seattle firm Rogers and Fleck.

The plaintiff, named only as J.K., alleges that he was abused by two Catholic priests identified in the suit as the Revs. Richard O'Connor and Anthony King. King died in 2001; it was unclear from the suit when O'Connor died.

J.K. says he was about 14 and attending high school at St. Peter the Apostle Seminary in Cowiche when he was first sexually abused by O'Connor, who served as a teacher and priest at the seminary.

He claims the abuse occurred in the priest's residence on the seminary grounds.

The Cowiche seminary was later closed, and many of the students, teachers and priests transferred to Materi Cleri Seminary in Spokane. It was unclear from the lawsuit why the seminary closed.

King was among the priests transferred to Spokane; the suit doesn't say if O'Connor was also. In Spokane, J.K. alleges that King sexually molested him over a period of about 18 months in King's quarters at the seminary and during confession.

In the lawsuit, Fleck argues that the Yakima diocese "knew or should have known that O'Connor and King were pedophiles."

The suit says that J.K. realized last year that many of his problems as an adult could be traced to being molested by the two priests.

Reached by telephone in Seattle, Fleck said that her client is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

"What he most wants is to be sure that this doesn't happen to anyone again," said Fleck. "The institutional failures of the church are troubling to him."

Michael Bolasina, an attorney with the Seattle firm Stafford and Frey -- which represents the Yakima diocese -- said Monday that he had not yet seen the complaint.

However, Bolasina said he had not heard of any previous claims made against King or O'Connor.

The diocese has 20 days to answer the complaint.

The two priests identified in Monday's suit brings to seven the number of Yakima diocese clerics named publicly as being accused of sexually abusing children.

The other five are the Revs. Dale Calhoun and Richard Scully, who are no longer practicing as priests; Deacon Aarn Ramrez, who fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution; Monsignor Joseph Sondergeld, who died in 1969; and the Rev. Michael Simpson, who is deceased.

Rogers and Fleck previously represented three men who alleged they were abused as adolescents by Calhoun and Scully.


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