Settlement Reached in Catholic School Abuse Case

By Valerie Kalfrin
Tampa Tribune (Florida)
May 20, 2008

TAMPA - A civil lawsuit seeking $5 million after alleging sexual abuse at a now-closed Catholic school has been settled for an undisclosed amount, attorneys involved in the case said Monday.

The Eastern U.S. Province of the Salesian Society, the religious order that operated the defunct Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, reached the settlement on Friday with a former student of the school, known in documents as S.A.

Adam Horowitz, a Miami lawyer representing the student, said he could not discuss the settlement amount, "but our client is very pleased."

Richard Beran, a New Jersey attorney for the Salesian Society and the Salesian Society of Florida, released a statement Monday from the religious order's provincial office in New Rochelle, N.Y.

"The Salesians express our deep sorrow at past failures in this regard. We acknowledge the grave sinfulness and criminality of sexual abuse of the young. We repent of the terrible harm caused to young people and their families by any of our members," the statement said.

The Salesians have obtained accreditation over the years from Praesidium Inc., an abuse risk-management company in Arlington, Texas, "for achieving the highest standard in child abuse prevention," the statement said.

In the original complaint, filed in 2005, the plaintiff accused his dormitory supervisor of fondling him, performing oral sex on him and molesting him when he was a seventh-grader and altar boy.

S.A. is in his 30s and lives in Texas with his wife and one child, Horowitz said.

In a deposition taken in 2007, the dormitory supervisor, Jorge Acosta, denied abusing S.A., but admitted to sexual contact with three other boys. The boys were about 14 years old, according to court papers.

Acosta left the school and the clergy in 1983 and became an actor and drama coach.

After the deposition became public, Acosta was fired as artistic director of the Galaxy Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg.

Attempts to reach Acosta on Monday were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors did not pursue criminal charges against Acosta after the admissions in the deposition became public because the statute of limitations on the offenses had expired.

The criminal charge would have been lewd and lascivious molestation, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. That charge must be pursued within three years of the offense or three years after the accuser reaches 18.


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