PHOENIX A former Tacoma, Washington, pastor and father of 16 children, Johnny Lee Riley has been ordered to stand trial here for a slaying 34 years ago. He was to be extradited to to face charges from a March 29, 1974 holdup at a motel where a desk clerk was shot to death. Riley's family, who support him, said he often mentioned a shooting and attempted robbery, citing the incident when he talked to his congregation about his life before becoming a minister. (3/?)
MODESTO A jury awarded more than $1.5 million in punitive damages on Friday to a priest who filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Stockton and its church leaders for slander. They also awarded Fr. Patrick Flood $250,000 in compensatory damages.
The dispute began in August 1991 when Flood was assigned to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock. He criticized Fr. Frank Prendergast, head minister of the parish, for his alleged drinking habits, including being drunk during Mass. Flood also accused a church maintenance worker of stealing money from the collection plates. That's when Prendergast and a lay leader began spreading rumors that Flood stole money from church and that he escaped from a mental institution in Texas where he served as a priest before moving to the Northern San Joaquin Valley, according to Flood's attorney.
Flood served as priest at Sacred Heart until March 1992 when he was transferred to a parish in Stockton. But he continued to celebrate Mass in Turlock and eventually started a new congregation there, causing the diocese to remove him. Flood filed the lawsuit in 1992, seeking monetary damages for loss of his reputation and for being removed from the diocese. The jury ruled Prendergast to pay $12,500 and the diocese to pay $1.5 million in punitive damages. (5/8)
PASADENA 66-year-old John Gottuso, a Pasadena psychologist who runs a church and Christian school, be sentenced for demonstrating a sex act with a teenage girl. Yet he will still be able to operate a school.
It began nine years ago when Gottuso lost his license to practice because a state agency found that he was having sex with some of his patients. Two years later, another state agency forbade Gottuso from having any involvement with his church's preschool, partly because agency investigators said he once played "sex tag" under a blanket with two girls. In March, Gottuso settled a sexual- and psychological-abuse lawsuit by 11 plaintiffs.
A Pasadena Municipal Court judge sentenced him to 30 days house arrest and five years probation after he pleaded no contest to demonstrating a sex act with a 15-year-old girl in late 1995 in front of a class at his Christ-Bridge Academy, now based in Altadena. But because of a loophole in a state law, those legal problems have done little to restrict Gottuso's ability to counsel and teach children. Even after the state Department of Social Services took action against his church's license to operate a private preschool in 1989, Gottuso continued to operate. (4/28)
HUNTINGTON BEACH An elderly woman is suing a priest, his business partner, and the Franciscan Order of the Sacred Heart in St. Louis for money she loaned the priest, Fr. Edd Anthony. Diana Stuart, 79, a British-born stage actress and devout Catholic, was approached by Anthony for money to help support a nonprofit, religious-based enterprise. Always, she said, she considered the money a loan, receiving promissory notes and even being repaid $65,000 out of the $205,000 she borrowed to give him.
The attorney representing Anthony and his partner Curtis Johnson says the contribution was a gift, the company has gone bankrupt and the property used to secure her financial involvement is in foreclosure. (3/18)
SAN FRANCISCO City prosecutors say they'll appeal a Municipal Court's dismissal of sexual molestation charges against Msgr. Patrick O'Shea. The priest was accused of molesting nine boys between 1964 and 1980. O'Shea was first arrested in 1995 but was quickly released when a judge ruled that the statute of limitations for prosecution had run out. A new state law allowed for his re-arrest, but a Municipal Court judge has now ruled that arresting O'Shea again violates his constitutional rights.
O'Shea is also fighting charges of embezzling over $260,000 from nuns, students, widows and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. (3/18)
DENVER A 33-year-old man who sued a popular Catholic priest for alleged sexual assault has hired a new lawyer after his original legal team withdrew from the case earlier this year. Joyce Seelen of Denver filed papers in U.S. District Court stating that she now represents John Dean Ayon of San Diego.
Ayon sued Fr. Marshall Gourley and the Denver
Archdiocese last September, seeking $20 million in damages on grounds
Gourley sexually abused him between June 1981 and June 1984.
During the time, Gourley was assistant pastor and pastor of a church in northwest Denver. Ayon and his family were members.
Ayon claimed the priest's actions left him with ``severe and disabling depression manifested in alcohol abuse and attempted suicide.'' He also alleged that the archdiocese engaged in a ``conspiracy to cover up'' the actions and didn't properly supervise Gourley. Gourley denies the claims.
After Ayon filed the suit, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput removed Gourley as pastor and stripped him of his "priestly faculties," meaning he cannot function as a priest.
Ayon's new lawyer has won millions from churches in sexual harassment lawsuits, including several cases for Denver-area women in lawsuits against both the United Methodist and the Episcopal churches and one for a boy who claimed he was molested by a Church of Christ minister.
Ayon's first attorneys, Windle Turley of Dallas and Gregory Stutz of Denver, withdrew from the case in February. Turley left the case because Ayon had "lost confidence'' in Turley's ability to represent him, according to court papers. (5/13)
DENVER A former minister of The Way International was sentenced to prison for 30 months and ordered to pay restitution of $528,000 to his former followers after he admitted he had bilked them out of their money, in some cases life savings and inheritances.
Richard Panyard, 45, in Jan. pleaded guilty to commit
fraud. He and two followers, Jack Northart and Charles
Mandrey, founded three companies in the late 1980s using money
coerced out of The Way's members. Around 1989, the struggling companies
became a scheme to defraud, characterized by the judge as a classic "Ponzi
scheme," where one person's investment is used to pay off another's.
Panyard has also been accused of sexual misconduct. One woman, who was married by him, claims she had to fight off his advances less than a year later.
The Way International, often described as a cult, was founded in New
Knoxville, OH, in 1961 as a biblical research and teaching ministry. It
claims that Christ is not God, there is no Trinity and the Jews are a tribe
from Siberia. It has been known to arm its senior members and some wear
bulletproof vests to meetings. From its height in 1985 with an estimated
100,000 members, it has dwindled to a current estimate of 20,000. A large
number of followers live north of Colorado Springs where the church owns
an encampment that has been the target of numerous investigations involving
firearms and munitions. (3/18)
PLEASANTON A former church youth leader who kept a framed photo of a naked young boy in his bedroom along with other sexually explicit material has been charged with distributing pornography to minors. Edward Keator, 43, of Livermore was arrested by police as the subject of a three-month child pornography sting over the Internet.
Keator had been a youth leader at several Catholic churches. (3/8)
DENVER One of the city's best known ministers has resigned from the church he founded due to financial troubles. Rev. Charles Blair
announced his resignation from the pastorship of Calvary Temple, an independent
church he founded in 1954.
In 1976 Blair was convicted of securities fraud when more than 3,000 investors lost $18 million in one or more of the institutions he controlled. He was placed on 5 years probation and find $12,750 with promises to pay back the lost money. He was taken to court again in the early 1990's by investors who claimed they had not received any money from a fund-raising campaign to pay them off. He then agreed to pay $700,000 in a settlement, but investors are still complaining that they have received no money and that all the funds raised went to Blair and his friends. (3/7)
HARTFORD A former deacon who fathered a child with a young parishioner was sentenced to 18 years in prison for raping her and another girl as well.
Edward Brown, Jr., 39, asked for forgiveness in court. The young woman was 6 years old when Brown began molesting her. He raped her several times and she became pregnant in 1994 at age 14. She hid the pregnancy, giving birth alone in her room. When the baby died shortly thereafter, she threw away the body, which has never been found.
Six months later, she had a nervous breakdown. Doctors would not believe she had been pregnant until a medical exam proved it.
After Brown pleaded guilty to the rape, one of his family members came forward to accuse him of molesting her since age 5. 4/4
HARTFORD The Diocese of Bridgeport must pay over $33,000 in sanctions for withholding evidence about a priest during a a sexual-abuse case last year, a federal judge has ordered.
The diocese violated a court order by failing to tell Frank Martinelli, who claimed to have been abused by Fr. Laurence Brett, that it had settled two other similar claims against him. Despite not learning of the other claims until shortly before trial, Martinelli won a $750,000 damage award against the diocese last summer. The sanctions will go to reimburse his lawyers for the extra expenses incurred. Martinelli was led to the other victims by other documents that the diocese did disclose, but those documents did not include details on the church's settlements.
In 1962, Martinelli was a teenager thinking of becoming a priest; Brett was a newly ordained and charismatic priest assigned to Martinelli's parish. He said that Brett, who led a close-knit group of boys who called themselves "Brett's Mavericks,'' seduced him into having oral sex. "It's OK,'' the priest said, according to Martinelli. "It's another way of receiving Holy Communion.''
Martinelli said he suppressed the memories of three sexual encounters until 1991, when an old friend mentioned that he had been abused by Brett. It turned out that Brett had acknowledged to the diocese that he had abused boys. The church told him to feign hepatitis and ordered him to the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico.
Diocesan officials never tried to determine how many boys had been affected, Martinelli said. Martinelli said he suffered a loss of faith and many other problems. During the trial, he testified, ``The big deal is I'll never really know what my life could've been - and would have been like if Fr. Brett hadn't abused me as a kid.''
Both the original case and Martinelli's call for sanctions revolved around the question of whether the diocese had concealed Brett's abuse both in the 1960s when it occurred and in the 1990s when the truth was being sought. (4/1)
HARTFORD The Diocese of Bridgeport agreed to pay more than $200,000 to a former alter boy who claimed he was sexually abused for years by defrocked priest Gavin O'Connor.
The man, now 33, said in the suit that O'Connor abused him beginning when he was 12 years old at a number of different rectories, often during a private Mass at which he served. He said that O'Connor served Communion immediately before or after the abuse, which included oral and anal sex. He claimed he spent nights in the same bed with O'Connor and smoked marijuana and drank with him.
The diocese learned of O'Connor's actions by Feb. 1986, according to the suit, but was reassigned to a church in Illinois where he supervised altar servers. O'Connor was not defrocked until March 1989.
The settlement was announced moments before opening arguments in what was expected to be a month-long jury trial. Another earlier suit involving the man's younger brother was settled out of court.
The latest settlement comes just a day after a judge ordered the diocese to turn over all documents regarding complaints of sexual misconduct by at least 14 different priests between 1977 and 1984.
The judge dismissed the claims of the diocese that it is protected from such lawsuits under the US Constitution's First Amendment, which protects religion from government interference. As a result of the settlement, the diocese does not have to surrender the documents and the First Amendment ruling is no longer in effect.
O'Connor, who now goes by the first name of "Donald", is believed to be living in San Diego. 3/5
MIAMI So sure are parishioners of Camino de Santidad church that their pastor, Rev. Daniel Garnicki, is innocent of charges of having sex with a 15-year-old girl that more than a dozen of them have declared a hunger strike. Camped out on mattresses under a large tent covering the parking lot of their church, 14 people have vowed not to eat until Garnicki is set free. Among the fasters are the minister's wife, stepson, brother, and the accuser's ex-boyfriend.
The church crisis stems from the September arrest of Garnicki, an evangelical minister who hosts a four-hour Christian radio program . A teenager who attended services at the church told police that, one night after service last year, Garnicki lured her to a motel in Miami Beach by saying he needed her assistance with a study on how Christian women and worldly women's interest in pornography differed. Once there, she told police he ordered a pornographic movie and forced her to perform oral sex on him. He allegedly had intercourse with her, and then made her pray for forgiveness for having sinned.
Garnicki was charged with having sex with a minor in his custody. He is under house arrest in his West Dade home but continues to preach each night via satellite. His case is expected to go to trial in May.
Though prosecutors say they have witnesses and evidence that Garnicki signed in at the hotel and rented the movie, members of Garnicki's church have taken their outrage to the radio waves.T hey claim the accusations are creations of a troubled and promiscuous girl who is only out for money. Parishioners believe the accusations are a conspiracy by homosexuals who resent Garnicki's fight against gay-rights laws. (4/6)
The two girls, whose parents confronted Rich, said they were fondled during classes while standing behind the pastor's desk. Other girls were also called to stand there, according to a detective. (2/14)
ST. PETERSBURG A man training to be a priest has been booted out of the seminary after telling police a priest assaulted him. One of the 13 seminarians training to be priests for the diocese, said his decision to go public about the incident last Oct. has "blackballed" him from a vocation and caused "great emotional distress."
He accused the vice-rector of the seminary, Fr. Joe Waters, of shaking him so violently that he wet himself during a verbal dispute. He called the police, but since there were no witnesses, the state attorney took no action. However, the man said he will file suit against Waters, the Archdiocese of Maimi and the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
A church official said there was more to the dismissal than that one incident, but would not elaborate. He learned of his dismissal in a letter from Bishop Robert Lynch, who wrote, "Your conduct in how this complaint was handled is unworthy of one wishing to become a priest." (2/11)
ATLANTA A former housekeeper for a north Atlanta Catholic Church is suing the church and the Archdiocese of Atlanta, claiming religious and sexual harassment. The woman claims she was exposed to pornography when she cleaned a priest's bedroom. She also claims she was subjected to offensive religious discrimination. The church and archdiocese deny the charges. (5/13)
CHICAGO A member of the Christian Brothers who formerly taught high school has been arrested as part of a police sting for allegedly using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor.
Br. Robert Bouillette, 56, of Joliet, was arrested at a fast food restaurant when he showed up to meet with an individual he thought was a 12-year-old boy. He was charged with indecent solicitation of a child. The sheriff said police targeted Bouillette after being alerted by New Hampshire police who said they had monitored earlier Internet conversations in which he was involved.
Bouillette worked out of an office adjacent to a high school, but school officials denied he was on the faculty or had any contact with students. It was not known why he left his former teaching post. (4/21)
CHICAGO A minister has been indicted by a grand jury in connection with extorting more than $100,000 from an elderly church member. Rev. Melvin Durrell, 41, was charged with theft by deception. The indictment alleges that Durrell convinced the 83-year-old woman to give him cash, a new car and take out a $15,000 second mortgage on her house to help him. He also allegedly asked to use the woman's credit card. (No date)
EVANSVILLE Blindsided by a wave of criticism, Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger has reversed his decision to assign Fr. Jean Vogler as a chaplain at St. Mary's Medical Center. The bishop said he felt powerless in the face of such strong reaction both in favor of and against Vogler's assignment. The intensity of the reactions made it clear what he needed to do, Gettelfinger said. He has yet to consider what other post he might assign to Vogler, who spent a year in a federal prison for possessing child pornography.
Gettelfinger praised Vogler's desire to come home to Evansville, stand tall and admit his guilt. Vogler, a friend of Gettelfinger, was a well-liked pastor when federal investigators found a trunk full of child pornography in his rectory in 1995.
After serving his prison sentence, Vogler completed more than eight months of intensive inpatient therapy and continues to receive outpatient therapy, Gettelfinger said. According to state law, Vogler had to register as a sex offender with the Evansville Police Department. Gettelfinger said he understands that a mother might be anxious about her child being a patient at St. Mary's, knowing Vogler's background, even though that fear may be unfounded.
He expressed disappointment in the critics' apparent lack of belief in the powers of redemption. Gettelfinger said the hospital atmosphere would have been ideal for Vogler, whom therapists said would be better off surrounded by people, rather than living or working alone. The hospital ministry is highly supervised, highly structured, and highly scrutinized, Gettelfinger said. A St. Mary's spokeswoman said a chaplain works in a pastoral team, and Vogler would rarely be alone with a patient. (5/20)
INDIANAPOLIS The Diocese of Lafayette has settled a lawsuit with a longtime employee of a church who accused her priest of touching her breasts and calling her a "whore." Debra H. Kukla also charged that Fr. Donald Eder retaliated against her when she protested his behavior.
Details of the settlement were not disclosed. It was not known if Kukla will receive money from the diocese or, if so, how much.
As part of the settlement, Kukla has resigned her position at the church where she served as director of liturgy and music.
In her federal sexual discrimination lawsuit, Kukla claimed that Eder sexually harassed her from 1993 to 1997. When the Indianapolis-area mother of two resisted Eder's inappropriate actions, she said, the priest retaliated by faulting her work and ignoring her and his boss, Bishop William Higi, failed to protect her.
The diocese sent Eder to counseling, where he received therapy for alcohol-related problems, but was then returned to his pulpit.
That left the priest in his position of authority over Kukla and other women who also said they were victims of the priest, Kukla has charged.
Eder and the diocese have denied Kukla's allegations. (5/6)
MARIETTA Rev. Jane Payne, 61, a United Methodist minister, has been charged with striking her 92-year-old mother, Margaret, at least 6 times. A neighbor who witnessed the alleged incident early one morning reported it to the county's Adult Protective Service. After the charges were filed, Margaret was taken to a nursing home. Payne has continued to lead services. (3/18)
INDIANAPOLIS Fr. Donald Evrard, 68, has left his job as a chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital after accusations that he sexually abused a young girl for five years beginning in 1974.
A Cincinatti woman went public with her allegations after receiving a lump-sum settlement from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for counseling and legal expenses. Tracy Friend asked for that settlement and got it in Dec. Now, however she says she regrets the decision because the money won't go far enough to pay ongoing medical and counseling bills which she claims could amount to more than $180,000 in her lifetime. (1/23)
FRANKFORT The Diocese of Covington must compensate a student who was abused by convicted pedophile Fr. Earl Bierman at a parochial school more than two decades, an appellate court ordered.
The diocese is liable because it concealed information it had about the abuse by Bierman of other children. A jury awarded John Secter $750,000, apportioning 75 percent fault to the diocese and 25 percent to Bierman.
Bierman was eventually dismissed as a defendant from the civil suit. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in 1993 to molesting six young males while serving as a teacher.
After reports of sexual abuse surfaces, Bierman was sent to New Mexico for 4 years, where he continued to abuse young men. He returned to the schools of the Diocese of Covington, and though the diocese continued to receive and conceal reports of his abuse.
However, Bierman is still serving time in prison, having been denied parole. With time off for good behavior, he may be released in August 2007. (4/5)
MANDEVILLE A lawsuit filed on behalf of a then-5-year-old girl claims a Catholic school principal forced her and other children out of their classrooms for sex play in the cafeteria and a storage building while he videotaped them.
John Parauka, then-principal of Our Lady of the Lake school here, is said by the girl to have killed and gutted a cat in her presence as a threat if she told. A teacher subsequently founded an eviscerated cat carcass wrapped in a black robe at the location the girl described. It was not until months later that its significance was noted because the parents' allegations to the parish priest and supervisor of the school, Fr. Joseph Chotin, went unreported. Church officials contend the dead animal was found while cleaning an abandoned building, so decayed it was hard to tell if had been gutted.
Investigations were conducted by the archdiocese, the district attorney and the police with more than 100 students, parents and teachers interviewed. The accusations went before a grand jury, which returned no indictments.
However, four teachers testified during the first trial that they were aware of unrelated allegations that Chotin passed around pornography on church premises. A construction worker also testified that Chotin had given him pornographic videos. Chotin was also named in an earlier unrelated lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of minors at Our Lady of the Lake.
The case has languished in the courts since 1988. It was aborted as a mistrial after one of the jurors was arrested in an unrelated incident. The case then became mired in appeals since the judge dismissed Chotin, Our Lady of the Lake parish and the Archdiocese of New Orleans as defendants. An appeals court only allowed the Archdiocese off and the case has been in limbo until the state Supreme Court decides whether it can be included as a defendant.
While Parauka has not been principal at the school for about a decade, Chotin has remained as parish priest. The Louisiana Supreme Court was to hear arguments in mid-April. (3/10)