Man Sues Catholic Order, Says It Knew of Sex Abuse

By Valerie Kalfrin
Tampa Tribune
April 14, 2007

Apr. 14--TAMPA -- A man who admitted in a sworn deposition that he had sexual relations with children decades ago has triggered a $5 million lawsuit against a Catholic school and its religious order.

Jorge Acosta, 48, testified Feb. 7 as part of another lawsuit against Mary Help of Christians School, which now is closed, and the Catholic order that operated it, the Salesian Society and the Salesian Society of Florida. In the deposition, Acosta said he had sexual relations with at least three teenage boys in 1983 while working as a cleric and teacher at the school.

On Friday, one of those victims, identified only as J.M., filed a lawsuit against the school and the religious order, accusing them of negligence, a complaint states. The complaint alleges the school and the religious organization knew "Brother Jorges Acosta" was sexually abusing boys but took no action.

The complaint also accuses Acosta, who taught English and music at the school, of fondling J.M. and kissing him in the school's dormitory.

J.M.'s attorney, Adam Horowitz of Miami, said J.M. was in the seventh grade at the time. He is now 37 and lives in the Tampa area.

Horowitz said he might have to depose Acosta again "with a focus now on the abuse of J.M."

Reached by phone Friday, Acosta said he was not aware of J.M.'s lawsuit. He said he had no other comment.

The school's attorneys in previous lawsuits have denied any knowledge of abuse.

A Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detective is reviewing a copy of Acosta's deposition from February to determine whether Acosta should face any criminal charges, agency spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

During that deposition, Horowitz showed Acosta pages photocopied from a 1982-83 school yearbook.

"Please identify all of the victims -- all of the students who you've had sexual relations with," Horowitz said, according to a transcript.

Acosta pointed to four pictures, a transcript shows. He later said he could not remember what occurred with one former student, whom Horowitz identified as Student No. 4. The school and religious order settled with Student No. 4 for $150,000 in September, Horowitz said.

After the deposition was made public in a Tampa Tribune article, Acosta was fired as artistic director of St. Petersburg's Galaxy Center for the Arts and was replaced in a local production of "Cigar City Chronicles." The actor also appeared locally in "Anna and the Tropics" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."


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