Settlement for last plaintiff in church abuse case
May 20, 2009
The last remaining plaintiff in a priest sex-abuse trial against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle has settled his case. Both The Seattle Times and Seat t lePI .com repor t the 44-year-old suburban Auburn man settled late Tuesday for $700,000. He testified earlier in the day in the King County Superior Court trial about the abuse he said he suffered as an eighth-grader in the late 1970s when Patrick O'Donnell was a priest at his Seattle parish. A second plaintiff in the trial settled Monday; two others settled before the trial began. This has been the first lawsuit against the Seattle archdiocese over priest sex abuse to go to trial. Lawyers for the archdiocese say more than 200 claims involving a number of priests have been settled and fewer than 20 pend. O'Donnell has admitted abusing at least 30 boys. At issue was whether former A r c h b i s h o p R a y m o n d Hunthausen, who testified Monday, and other archdiocesan officials knew or should have known that O'Donnell molested boys repeatedly before he was abruptly sent to Seattle from Spokane, and whether he was monitored sufficiently before he returned to Spokane. The Auburn man "felt really good that he got to tell his story that was the most important thing," his lawyer Timothy Kosnoff said. He also felt proud that he'd been able to get Seattle archdiocese leaders to court, and that he got Hunthausen to publicly "admit that mistakes were made," Kosnoff said. The retired archbishop, now 87, testified that his close friend of about 50 years and former college teacher and mentor, the late Spokane Bishop Bernard J. Topel, never told him O'Donnell was a serial child abuser. Hunthaus en c ould no t explain why he grant e d O'Donnell full powers of ministry in the archdiocese without the usual documentat ion required of priests who temporarily move to another diocese apparently the only time that happened while he was archbishop. "It was a breach on my part," he told the court. "It's hard to acknowledge that now. It hurts me." He and other church leaders in Seattle have testified they thought the priest was in Seattle in 1 9 7 6 - 7 8 to at tend the University of Washington, which he did, earning a Ph.D. in education. But O'Donnell was also sent for sexual deviancy treatment. Kosnoff told the Times that part of the reason his client settled involved questions raised by some jurors after the man's testimony Tuesday, when he said he had been abused by O'Donnell in Seattle, and then went to visit the priest in Spokane, where he was abused again. "In honesty, we were influenced by those four jurors who asked these questions about why he went back," Kosnoff said. "I don't want to call it blaming the victim, but it definitely signaled to us that jurors had questions about that and we had to take that into account."