Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Black Collar Crime (November 2020)

Vol. 37 No. 09 November 2020
Black Collar cartoon                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Gary Berthiaume, 78, Warrendale, IL: 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct alleged to have occurred involving a 14-year-old parishioner in August 1977 at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Farmington, MI, where Berthiaume

was pastor.

He was previously arrested for sexual assault of 2 other minors in Michigan and served jail time in 1978 for molesting 2 brothers who were altar boys. Their mother, Betty Kedzierski, filed a civil suit in which she alleged she was thrilled at first that her sons would have a father figure in Berthiaume since she was a single mom. The church settled the suit for $350,000.

After serving his jail sentence, Berthiaume was transferred to the Diocese of Cleveland in Ohio and was moved again in 1987 to the Diocese of Joliet, IL. He was defrocked in 2007. Source: WNEM, 9-28-20

Lloyd E. Lasker Jr., 49, Mayflower, AR: Possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of firearms by certain persons. Lasker, pastor at the House of Refuge and Deliverance, was arrested after police reportedly found 4 grams of meth and a glass pipe in a vehicle registered to the church.

He is also under investigation for a domestic abuse allegation involving a 1-year-old boy, on whom Lasker allegedly admitted performing exorcisms after his mother claimed he was “possessed by a demon.” A responding police officer reported the boy had “multiple bruises from head to toe and was life threateningly emaciated.”

According to a search warrant affidavit, Lasker said “he has used meth in the church several times,” including with the child’s mother and “many other members in the church.” Source: Log Cabin Democrat, 9-28-20

Bryan S. Carrejo, 33, Orange City, FL: 5 counts of possession of sexual performance by a child. Carrejo, pastor at Victory Chapel, is accused of offering to share child pornography online that depicted children as young as 8.

Duncan Corn, a neighbor, commented: “It’s amazing that he’s doing that and he’s got five kids, four or five kids, living in his house.”

Authorities discovered the activity by using a tool created by the nonprofit Child Rescue Coalition, which tracks people using the “dark web” to share child porn. Source: WESH, 9-24-20

Three people attending a “psalm sing” sponsored by Christ Church in a city hall parking lot in Moscow, ID, were arrested for resisting/obstructing police and violating public health orders aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission. Two others received public health citations but weren’t taken into custody. About 200 people attended.

Christ Church pastor Ben Zornes said the event was held to protest the city council’s “largely groundless” mask and distancing order. Gabriel Rench, a church deacon running as a Republican for county commission, retweeted a video of his arrest that showed police handcuffing him while the crowd continued to sing. Source: Newsweek/AP, 9-24-20

David Reiter, 51, South Park, PA: Federal tax fraud charges related to alleged embezzlement, failure to pay $805,000 in employment taxes from 2016–18 and filing false income tax returns for 2014–18 while he was business administrator at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Reiter pleaded guilty in 2019 in state court to receiving stolen property, theft, forgery, access device fraud, tampering with records and unlawful use of a computer. He pleaded no contest to conspiring with his wife, Connie Reiter, in the crimes.

After the church board of directors discovered missing funds in 2018, the board treasurer tried to speak with the man he thought had conducted the audit. But according to investigators, Reiter gave the treasurer the number of his own prepaid cellphone and then pretended to be the auditor. Source: Post-Gazette, 9-23-20

Zvi Feiner, 50, and Erez Baver, 50, Chicago: 10 counts of wire fraud and a single count of wire fraud, respectively, for allegedly bilking an estimated $22 million from investors. Feiner is the founder and spiritual adviser of Bais Medrash Binyan Olam, an Orthodox congregation. Baver was his business partner in the Rosewood Care Centers chain of nursing homes.

The chain was part of a network they bought after raising money from investors in the Orthodox Jewish communities around Chicago and New York. Prosecutors allege they misled investors about Rosewood’s financial health and operated a Ponzi scheme. Feiner paid a $1 million penalty to HUD last year for failing to file several years of audited financial reports required by a federal mortgage insurance program. Source: Skokie Patch/NY Times, 9-15-20

Jacob Steagall, 28, Morehead, KY: Misdemeanor indecent exposure alleged to have occurred Dec. 15, 2019, when he was youth pastor at Better Life Church. A statement on social media from the church said he resigned Aug. 25 due to “a personal problem that had become a pattern of behavior.”

According to the mother of a minor who was allegedly flashed, there may be at least 3 more alleged victims: “It is my prayer that this will make him understand that this behavior will not be tolerated by our community.” Source: The Trail Blazer, 9-11-20

Joseph Comperchio, 66, Ft. Myers, FL: 6 counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from alleged incidents in the 1970s when he was was a drama and music teacher at St. John Catholic School in Jackson, MI. Two alleged victims reported they were assaulted by Comperchio between the ages of 9 and 11 between 1974 and 1977, according to state Attorney General Dana Nessel. Source: State Journal, 9-14-20

Mulugeta Legesse, 64, Oklahoma City: 2 counts of indecent or lewd acts with a child under 16. Legesse, a former elder at St. George Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is accused of preying on girls as young as 7 at Sunday school by luring them with candy into his car in the parking lot. “If you tell your parents, they will beat you,” he allegedly told the girls. Source: KFOR, 9-10-20

Sylvester Ofori, 35, Orlando, FL: 1st-degree murder with a firearm. Ofori, pastor at Floodgates of Heaven International Ministries who calls himself a prophet and motivational speaker, is accused of shooting his wife in the head several times with a handgun outside the Navy Federal Credit Union where she worked.

He and Barbara Tommey, 27, were estranged and going through a divorce. Ofori, a native of Ghana, was arrested on a domestic violence complaint in February 2016 by a deputy who saw him and Tommey arguing in a gas station parking lot. He was charged with resisting arrest but the case was later dismissed. Source: Orlando Sentinel, 9-9-20

Gary and Cindy Smith, Milton, PA: Theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make required disposition for funds received. Gary Smith, pastor at Calvary Tabernacle Church on Packer Island, and his wife are charged with stealing $8,390 from the church from January–May 2020.

A 2010 contract between the Smiths and the church showed they were to be paid $800 a week for their services, but they allegedly misappropriated $8,390 above that amount. Source: Daily Item, 9-8-20

Michael A. Mayer, Casper, WY: 2 counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Mayer, a Jehovah’s Witnesses ministerial servant, allegedly had sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old girl. Ministerial servants assist church elders and often take leadership roles.

It’s alleged she and Mayer had sex several times at his office at the Bureau of Reclamation in Mills. The girl told investigators she viewed Mayer as a father figure and mentor, court documents state. Source: K2 Radio, 9-8-20

Netanel Shriki, a “mystic” rabbi in Netivot, Israel, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault of a woman who came to him for counseling. His assistant, Ariel Moshe, was arrested for witness tampering.

“Dr. N.” alleged she sought Shriki’s advice on her husband’s recommendation because they were having trouble conceiving a second child. Shriki “put his hand on my stomach, moved it upward, stopped at the lower bust, came closer to me with his face to my neck, breathed heavily, like a dog pants,” she told a reporter. “And then he asked me: ‘What does that do for you?’ And then he looked at me and said to me: ‘Ah, but nothing ever happened here. Tell your husband and I’ll deny it, he’ll believe me.’ ”

Two other women later came forward. One alleged Shriki told her if she didn’t lift her bra above her breasts, he wouldn’t be able to render a medical finding. Shriki told the court that according to Jewish mysticism, metal hinders spiritual clairvoyance, which is why he asked her to bare her breasts. Source: Haaretz, 9-1-20

Jacquel M. Bowser, 31, Millville, NJ: 3rd-degree theft, forgery and uttering a forged instrument. Bowser, a volunteer at First United Methodist Church, allegedly wrote 9 checks to herself for $6,503 on a church account between Sept. 19 and Dec. 6, 2019. Court records show she was indicted in 2008 for shoplifting and completed a pretrial diversion program in April 2010. Source: Daily Journal, 9-1-20

Pleaded / Convicted

Mona McGrady, 62, Sonora, CA: Guilty by jury of sexual penetration with a foreign object and 2 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or 15. McGrady, former coach and sports coordinator at Mother Lode Christian School, was acquitted on 8 similar counts. “Not guilty sometimes means not proven to the level that it needs to be proven,” said Judge Kevin Seibert.

In lengthy testimony, McGrady denied molesting 2 “Jane Doe” students between 1995–97 and said she has never been gay. Defense witness Mary Beth Sponsler, McGrady’s friend who is married to the school’s former athletic director, testified McGrady was always “very modest” and acted as a well-intentioned mentor.

Prosecutor Eric Hovatter asked about her knowledge of the accusations and conditions surrounding them such as McGrady’s locked office door, signed contracts limiting her exposure to students, and coaches sleeping in the same bed with athletes.

“Wouldn’t that creep you out?” Hovatter asked Sponsler repeatedly. Sponsler responded she would not be uncomfortable with students and teachers sharing sleeping arrangements. Source: Union Democrat, 9-17-20

Sentenced

Richard Mick, 59, Castalia, OH: Life in prison plus 3 years after a jury found him guilty of rape and 8 counts of gross sexual imposition involving 2 minors while he was pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky in the 1990s and 2000s. An appeals court overturned his 2016 conviction on similar charges.

The judge in Mick’s retrial in 2019 declared a mistrial after it was determined the prosecution didn’t share a key piece of evidence — a police report — during pretrial discovery. Source: Sandusky Register, 10-3-20

Hanny Lantara, 50, Surabaya, E. Java, Indonesia: 10 years in prison after being found guilty of sexual abuse. Lantara, pastor of Happy Family Center Church, was accused of repeatedly raping a young congregant from 2005, when she was only 12, until 2011. Source: Jakarta Post, 9-22-20

Gregory Lisby, 41, Worcester, MA: 6 years in prison after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography in February after investigators found hundreds of images in his online storage. The images depicted “extreme abuse” of children as young as preschoolers. Lisby was removed as rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in 2018 after what the church referred to as an “inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact.”

It was also disclosed in court that he had sexual contact with a 16-year-old boy but wasn’t charged because 16 is the age of consent. U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman ruled Lisby deserved an enhanced sentence for encouraging the boy to send him sexually explicit material online.

When arrested, he was working as a kindergarten teacher in Holyoke and living with his husband, rector of a different church in Worcester, in that church’s rectory with their 2 children. Bishop Douglas Fisher said Lisby’s husband has filed for divorce and “is in no way implicated in any of these charges.” Source: Telegram & Gazette, 9-18-20

Jerry Zweitzig, 72, Hatboro, PA: 200 years in prison after pleading guilty to manufacturing and possessing child pornography involving 2 victims. Zweitzig, who retired in 2016 as pastor of Horsham Bible Church, said during a presentence interview that “I taught [the child] that in the house, there was nothing wrong with nudity. … I really felt that I was trying to help.”

When first confronted in 2014, he insisted he had only spoken to the girl about puberty. No charges were filed. After a more detailed 2018 complaint, police found thousands of sexually explicit photos and videos of children in his home.

A 13-minute video showed Zweitzig masturbating in front of the girl, then age 9, who ran to lock herself in a bathroom. Other images showed her in various states of undress or being forced to perform sex acts on him. She alleged the abuse occurred from 2009–14.

When confronted by a family member after his arrest, Zweitzig maintained he didn’t think the images were illegal because he took them only for his personal use, prosecutors said.

After he pleaded guilty in 2019, police found a video shot in 2010 of him molesting the girl’s infant sibling, in which the six-month-old boy is coaxed into a sex act. Zweitzig’s voice can be heard repeatedly saying “That’s a good boy” in the video, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney William McSwain: “I will simply say this. Today’s sentence ensures that Zweitzig will die in prison, which is probably a better fate than what he deserves.” Source: Hatboro-Horsham Patch, 9-17-20

Aaron C.M. Schwartz, 22, and Petie C.M. Schwartz, 18, Seymour, MO: 15 years in prison, suspended, after pleading guilty to 2 counts of 3rd-degree child molestation with a child under age 14. The Amish brothers and 2 of their underage siblings were accused of having sex with their sister, who was 12 and 13 at the time in 2019–20.

The sentence includes 5 years’ probation, sex offender treatment, 100 hours’ community service and apology letters to Seymour’s Amish community.

Prosecutor Ben Berkstresser said he was aware that the plea bargain’s sentence would be criticized: “These two young men would’ve been eaten alive in the state prison system.” The brothers were initially charged with incest and 6 counts of statutory rape.

Berkstresser said the victim, now 13, had a baby 2 weeks ago: “One of the brothers is the father of this child. … The only reason we knew of this was because the sister got pregnant and a doctor found out and hot-lined it.” Source: Webster County Citizen, 9-16-20

Robert W. Rector, 31, Vancouver, WA: 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to 4 counts of child molestation involving 4 victims aged 15 or younger. Rector was involved with multiple church youth groups and other groups in Clark County and traveled out of state with them.

Court documents described a 15-year-old boy’s sleepover at Rector’s home with other church group members. The boy alleged Rector touched his crotch 4 times when he thought he was sleeping and massaged his back and thighs. Source: The Columbian, 9-11-20

Courtney M. Bingham, 36, Loudon, TN: 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to solicitation of a minor to commit statutory rape by an authority figure and 4 counts of aggravated statutory rape. Bingham, the family activities coordinator at Bethany Baptist Church, admitted soliciting a 16-year-old boy for sex while he was a member of her youth group in November–December 2018.

“You just don’t think about this kind of thing going on in your Christian church family, and certainly we loved her and considered her a special part of what we did here,” said Bethany pastor Rick Harrell. “She was faithful to the church, always had a bubbly attitude. The young people loved her, were drawn to her.”

She will have to serve at least 4 years before she is eligible for parole. Source: WBIR, 9-11-20

James Gaudreau, 77, former pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lynn, MA, was sentenced to “a life of prayer and penance” after being found guilty by a church judicial court of child abuse. He cannot function in any manner as a priest, according to the Archdiocese of Boston.

Gaudreau was placed on leave in 2012 for allegations dating from 2006 by a minor. There has been no criminal prosecution. The church is “obligated to provide food, shelter and healthcare” to Gaudreau until he dies or is defrocked, a spokesman said. Source: Boston Herald, 9-10-20

Benjamin A. Harter, 81, Cumming, GA: 5 years in prison and 15 years’ probation after pleading guilty to 3 counts of child molestation. Harter, pastor at Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs since 2014, began traveling with his wife to the Philippines to work with churches there in the mid-1990s and opened an orphanage before returning to the U.S. in 2008. The couple adopted 19 children over the years. Source: Journal-Constitution, 9-3-20

Isai Beltran, 30, Long Beach, CA: 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to lewd or lascivious act on a minor younger than 14. A plea deal dismissed misdemeanor counts of child annoyance and touching an intimate part of another person.

Beltran admitted molesting a 12-year-old boy on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. He was also accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy he met as a volunteer at an unidentified Orange County church. Beltran worked as a volunteer at a several churches in Los Alamitos and Cypress in 2013-14. Source: mynewsla.com, 8-28-20

Civil Lawsuits Filed

James Grear — a Catholic priest living in Philadelphia — the Diocese of Lafayette, IN, the Diocese of Phoenix and 2 “Doe” defendants are being sued by an anonymous Navajo plaintiff who alleges Grear molested him when he attended high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Chinle, AZ.

Grear was transferred to Arizona after a series of Indiana abuse allegations were made.

After working at Chinle High School, Grear had assignments in other parts of Arizona, South Dakota, Guam, Maryland, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Bronx, NY. He was finally removed from the ministry in 2001. Source: Arizona Republic, 10-2-20

The Catholic Diocese of Worcester, MA, and retired priest Thomas Mahoney have been named in a suit for alleged abuse of a minor in the 1970s. Bishop Robert McManus removed Mahoney from the ministry after the suit was filed.

Mahoney, who was ordained at age 30 in 1968, retired as co-pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Upton in 2012. Source: Worcester Telegram, 10-1-20

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah, GA, and current Bishop Stephen Parkes are defendants in a suit alleging conspiracy and fraud in mishandling alleged abuse by defrocked priest Wayland Brown in the 1980s. Brown died in 2019 while serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The plaintiff joined several other claimants in previous suits alleging abuse by Brown. He was 13 at the time and was attending St. James Catholic School in Savannah. The diocese paid $4.5 million in 2016 to settle a similar suit. Source: AP, 9-29-20

Robert Gandara, De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Catholic Charities, the Christian Brothers and the estate of Richard Langenstein have been sued by a plaintiff alleging sexual abuse in the early 1980s by Langenstein, the school principal who died in 2003. He and Gandara were Christian Brothers at the time.

Both of the men previously pleaded no contest to child molestation for conduct in St. Tammany Parish unrelated to the school. The plaintiff alleges he was about 15 the first time Langenstein groped his genitals after making him undress in his office, where he’d gone to get a tardy slip.

The alleged abuse by Langenstein and Gandara occurred for about 2 years. The suit says the boy’s mother caught Langenstein touching him sexually during a pool party at her home, leading her to kick the principal out of the house. Source: WWL, 9-25-20

Harumi Suzuki is suing the Catholic Diocese of Sendai and Bishop Martin Testuo Hiraga in Japan, alleging that a priest raped her in 1977. The suit seeks 56.1 million yen ($534,000) in damages. The priest is identified in the suit, but Suzuki’s lawyers don’t want his name reported for fear of a possible defamation claim.

Suzuki alleges she was raped during a counseling session she had gone to because she was a domestic abuse survivor. A 2016 church investigation determined that sex occurred but recommended no action due to the passage of time and the priest’s possible belief it was consensual. Source: AP, 9-25-20

All Saints Catholic School in Jupiter, FL, its principal Jill Broz and the Diocese of Palm Beach are being sued for alleged failure to protect an 11-year-old girl from sexual abuse by a male classmate who reached under her skirt in an unsupervised classroom on 2 occasions between January and March.

According to a heavily redacted police report, the boy said, “I put my finger in a girl’s private spot but it wasn’t on purpose, but it wasn’t an accident.” He has been charged as a juvenile offender with lewd and lascivious conduct.

The complaint alleges that after police and school officials were notified, Broz took no action to protect the girl from the other student and required her “to write an essay confessing to her maladaptive social behaviors, which included her own recognition that her actions were induced by the abuses she had suffered.”

It also claims the school and Broz “were motivated out of a desire to extend undue favor” to the boy “because his parents are long-time and repeated substantial financial donors to the school itself and several charities connected to the Diocese of Palm Beach.” Source: Palm Beach Post/WPTV, 9-22-20

James A. Sinnerud, a Jesuit priest who taught and coached football at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix in the 1980s, sexually assaulted him, a Brophy alumnus now living in California alleges. The suit alleges negligence by the school, the western U.S. Jesuits province and the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.

Sinnerud was one of 38 clergy members named in 2018 by the Archdiocese of Omaha, NE, as credibly accused of sexual abuse after a state attorney general’s investigation. After the church removed him from Brophy in 1987, Sinnerud went on to teach at Creighton Prep, a Jesuit school in Omaha, until retiring in 2008. He later worked part-time there until being removed in 2018. Source: New Times, 9-22-20

Charles Atkins Jr., the Presbytery of New York City and the French Evangelical Church of New York are defendants in a suit filed by Grace Nzameyo Maa, who alleges Atkins repeatedly pursued her sexually after helping her get a part-time pastoral job at his Manhattan church in 2018.

Nzameyo, a native of Cameroon, alleges that Atkins told her he wanted her to be his mistress because his wife wouldn’t have sex with him: “I’d like to get a blow job from a cute pastor like you. I know you Africans don’t like to give blowjobs.”

“Don’t wear your robe. I was hoping I could see your butt and curves and legs today,” Atkins allegedly said another time. Twice in late 2018, Atkins sent Nzameyo “three different photos of his genitals,” the suit alleges.

Nzameyo filed a formal complaint in February 2019 with the presbytery. She says he was fired 3 months later; the presbytery responded that Atkins “resigned before the investigation began.” She contends she was then barred from her church duties in retaliation, which the presbytery denies, saying “her employment as a minister had not been not been undertaken properly.” Source: NY Post, 9-22-20

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court certified a class action on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse from 1960 to the present by priests of the Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth. The class action was filed by Douglas Champagne on behalf of other survivors. Champagne alleges he was assaulted by George Epoch, pastor at Canadian Martyrs Church in Halifax. It’s alleged the archdiocese sent priests to Southdown Institute, a treatment facility in Ontario, before placing them back into churches without any warning to parishioners. Source: newswire.ca/Koskie Minsky LLP, 9-14-20

The Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, NJ, and 2 clergy are being sued over alleged sexual assaults of minors. Patrick Barrett is accused of molesting a child aged 9 to 10 who attended St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Port Reading in 1983–1984 when Barrett was pastor.

Regis Moccia is accused of molesting a 13- to 14-year-old student at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen from 1994–95. Moccia was a member of the Catholic Brothers of the Sacred Heart, which staffs the all-boys school in Metuchen. Source: Woodbridge Patch, 9-11-20

Civil Lawsuits Settled

The Catholic Diocese of Kamloops, BC, settled for undisclosed terms 2 suits filed by brothers who alleged the now-deceased priest Herbert Bourne molested them at St. James Parish in Vernon in the late 1970s. Plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Dick said his clients are satisfied with the resolution, which included an in-person apology from Kamloops Bishop Joseph Nguyen. Source: Castanet, 9-16-20

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston settled suits alleging molestation by 3 priests — Sylvio Ruest, John Salvucci and T. Raymond Sullivan — according to plaintiffs’ attorney Mitchell Garabedian. Ruest, who died in 1969, was accused of molesting a 13- or 14-year-old boy while assigned to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Bellingham in 1957 and 1958.

Salvucci allegedly molested a teen between 1977–79 while assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Billerica, and Sullivan was accused of molesting a 14-year-old in 1977 while assigned to St. Therese’s in Dracut.

Garabedian said the victims of Ruest and Salvucci received claims in the high five figures, while Sullivan’s victim received a claim in the low five figures. Source: Worcester Telegram, 9-15-20

The Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines in Ontario settled a suit filed by a woman whose sister was molested by Joseph Bonomi, a priest who died in 2012, and allegedly assaulted her older sister for 3 years in the 1970s at the rectory of St. Kevin’s Parish in Welland and in his car.

The plaintiff alleged Bonomi brought her along in the back seat, her dolls beside her, and made her stand outside as a lookout while he raped her sister or forced her sister to masturbate him and at least once made her watch.

After her sister became pregnant at 14 and had an abortion in 1974, Bonomi was abruptly transferred to another parish. A civil suit filed by the older sister was settled in 2008. Source: Globe & Mail, 9-14-20

The Catholic Diocese of Kamloops, BC, and Erlindo Molon will pay former schoolteacher Rosemary Anderson $844,140 for sexual assaults at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in N. Kamloops in 1976. Molon, 88, is a retired priest with dementia.

Anderson, 70, testified she sought counseling from Molon while grieving the death of her father and was coerced into a sexual relationship that went on for months. Anderson, who was 26 at the time, testified they had intercourse 70 to 100 times.

Molon was eventually suspended and forced to leave the diocese, but Anderson said then-Bishop Adam Exner told her that she also needed to leave Kamloops. Source: Terrace Standard, 8-27-20

Finances

The Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, NY, facing 223 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, filed for bankruptcy, the largest U.S. Catholic diocese to do so. Those lawsuits will now likely be frozen and swept under the supervision of bankruptcy court.

Rather than having their individual cases litigated in court, current plaintiffs and any future claimants would become creditors and would be eligible for a portion of a settlement fund negotiated by a committee of abuse survivors.

Marie Reilly, a law professor at Pennsylvania State University, said the end result would likely open a new chapter in the diocese’s financial life, free of Child Victims Act claims.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Anderson said the move would deny a jury trial to victims and limit their ability to unearth documents through discovery. The diocese has already paid about $62 million to settle about 350 cases under its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation program. Source: NY Times, 10-1-20

The German Catholic Church is setting up a system to compensate survivors of sexual abuse by clergy to provide for payments of up to 50,000 euros ($58,400) per survivor, who will be able to apply for payments starting Jan. 1, said Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, head of the German Bishops’ Conference.

A 2018 church-commissioned report said at least 3,677 people were abused between 1946–2014. Over half were 13 or younger and nearly a third were altar boys. Payments since 2011 under the old system have averaged about $5,840.

The new guidelines fall short of a recommendation by an independent working group for payments of up to $467,000 per person. Source: AP, 9-24-20

Legal Developments

The Jerusalem District Court ruled Malka Leifer can be extradited to Australia. She has 30 days in which to appeal the decision to Israel’s Supreme Court. The Israeli justice minister must also approve extradition.

Leifer, 53, fled to Israel from Australia in 2008 amid allegations she sexually abused students when she was the principal at the Jewish Adass Yisroel school in Melbourne. Australia filed an extradition request in 2014 after her indictment on 74 counts of rape and sexual assault.

She was arrested that year and then released after being deemed mentally unfit for the legal proceedings. She was rearrested in 2018 after an undercover investigation found she lived a normal life and was mentally fit to face extradition proceedings. Source: JTA, 9-21-20

Paul A. West, 60, a former Franciscan friar and 4th-grade teacher, has been extradited from his home state of Wisconsin to Mississippi to face sexual battery charges involving 2 impoverished Black boys who say they were pressured as men into accepting paltry payouts to settle their claims.

West did not contest his extradition at a hearing in Appleton, WI, on Aug. 17. The men making the allegations, La Jarvis Love and Joshua Love, both 37, are cousins who met West in the 1990s when he was a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, MS. About 2 years ago, each agreed to settle their claims for $15,000 — far less than most clergy abuse victims receive.

Joshua Love’s younger brother, Raphael, also alleged West molested him and reported it to church authorities in 1998, after which West returned to Wisconsin. Raphael Love rejected a settlement similar to those signed by his brother and cousin.

La Jarvis and Joshua Love sued in federal court in New York in 2019, claiming the Franciscans pressured them into signing low-ball settlements requiring their silence about their allegations. At the time they were not represented by an attorney.

In 2006 the Diocese of Jackson, which includes Greenwood, settled suits covering 19 victims, 17 of whom were white, for $5 million. That average payout of $263,000 for each survivor is 17 times that offered to the Loves. Source: AP, 9-2-20

Allegations

Twin Cities musician David R. Haas, 63, among the best-known contemporary composers in the Catholic Church, has been accused of sexual misconduct involving multiple young women who studied with him over the years. Haas taught at Benilde-St. Margaret’s school in St. Louis Park, MN, was composer-in-residence at the St. Paul Seminary and ran a Music Ministry Alive program for years at St. Catherine University, which drew more than 2,200 students from 1999 to 2017.

Susan Bruhl, 54, is among the 41 women alleging misconduct. She sang with Haas’ musical group Emmaus in the early 1980s. She alleges Haas invited her to lunch to celebrate her 18th birthday, ordered several “jumbo margaritas” for her and after the meal started walking her to her hotel next door. “He said something like, ‘You’re a woman now. Let’s continue the party.’ ”

Bruhl, who now lives in Hawaii, said from talking with others, she has learned Haas would “seek women who came from single-parent families or didn’t have a strong male presence.”

Haas initially denied the allegations as “false, reckless and offensive” before issuing a tepid apology in July: “I have come to realize that I have caused great harm to a variety of people. I make no excuses for any harm that I may have caused. I take responsibility for my behavior and I am truly sorry.”

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and several other denominations have halted the use of his music. Source: Star Tribune, 9-8-20

Other

Sabine Griego, 82, a former Catholic priest awaiting trial on a count of criminal sexual penetration, died in Albuquerque, NM. Court records allege he sexually assaulted 38 children in New Mexico from the mid-1960s through the early 1990s.

The trial charge stemmed from an accusation by a female that Griego raped her while she was a student at Queen of Heaven Catholic School. On one occasion, she alleged, he raped her while pushing her face into a table, breaking her nose. Source: KOB, 10-5-20

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