Jury awards $1.25 million in boy's molestation by priest

United Press International
February 7, 1986

Abbeville, La. -- A predominantly Roman Catholic jury Friday awarded $1.25 million to an 11-year-old boy and his parents, who said sexual abuse by their priest gave the child severe emotional problems.

The jury of nine men and three women -- including eight Catholics - deliberated an hour and 35 minutes before handing down the award, which brings to $6.7 million the amount of money paid to families of 14 children molested by the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe.

Gauthe last year pleaded guilty to 33 counts of sexual molestation of altar boys and is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Eight other lawsuits involving Gauthe are pending.

Bob Wright, attorney for the church, said no appeal was expected.

''The legal process has been completed,'' Bishop Gerard Frey said after the verdict. ''It's the American way. I pray now the Lord's healing presence will be felt in our community.

''We all have been hurt by this and we need the peace that comes with reconciliation.''

Glenn and Faye Gastal -- the first to admit publicly their son was molested by Gauthe -- had sought $12 million in the lawsuit. The jury awarded $1 million to the boy; $100,000 to each parent for mental pain, anguish and suffering; and $25,000 to each parent for ''the loss of consortium, service and society as a result of Gauthe's involvement.''

During closing arguments Friday after three days of testimony, J. Minos Simon, the Gastals' attorney, told jurors the boy could never be truly compensated for suffering the sexual abuse of Gauthe.

''(He has) an evil genie swirling about in his mind. His damages are almost incalculable,'' Simon said. ''At the very least, he has lost the hope of eternal life.''

The defense admitted the incidents occurred but is trying to limit the amount of damages. Wright argued damages should be limited to $350,000 to cover the child's medical and related costs.

The boy testified Thursday about repeated acts of molestation by Gauthe and said the priest had threatened to kill his father if the child revealed the encounters.

Because he feared Gauthe would hurt his father, the boy said he hid the molestations from the elder Gastal.

''He said he would hurt my daddy or kill him,'' the child testified.

Dr. Lyle Lecorgne, a clinical psychologist who has treated the boy since 1984, predicted the boy would have to undergo about $150,000 worth of therapy during his lifetime.

The doctor also said the Gastal parents would need up to five years of counseling to deal with the sexual abuse of their son.

Gauthe has admitted being sexually involved with young boys at every church he served since his ordination in 1971. He was stripped of his priestly duties in 1983 because of the misconduct.


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