Family, diocese settle lawsuit over abuse, but another suit going to court

Associated Press, 08/12/98 00:55

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - A woman who claims her son was abused as a child by a priest wants her day in court, and she's going to get it. While another family with similar claims has agreed to an out-of-court settlement, a $16 million civil lawsuit will begin Monday in state Supreme Court.

``I didn't want the money because the money would have silenced me,'' the mother said. ``I want people to realize what has happened to this family.'' Both cases against the Rev. Daniel W. Casey Jr. had been on the verge of being settled just before a scheduled trial in July, but the family going ahead with the suit balked at signing the settlement because the agreement said the priest and church had done nothing wrong.

``Let's just say the settlement was unsatisfactory,'' said the father, who alleges his then-11-year-old son was abused.

The other family apparently did not want to go to court and has accepted a cash deal reportedly worth about $325,000, according to their lawyer. The attorney for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Paul Hanrahan, confirmed the settlement but declined to comment further.

The twin lawsuits, which originally were filed separately but were scheduled to be tried together, accused Casey of sexually abusing two brothers, then ages 10 and 12, in December 1987 in a shower room at the State University of New York at Oswego, and of molesting the 11-year-old between August 1988 and January 1989.

The boys claimed that Casey touched and kissed them, disrobed and had them remove their clothes in the shower room.

The families of the boys also accused St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Elementary School of Oswego and the Syracuse diocese of negligence, saying they did not investigate Casey's background. The lawsuits claimed the parish and diocese had known or should have known Casey posed a risk to children.

Casey was associate pastor at St. Paul's Church and was director of religious instruction at the parish's elementary school at the time of the alleged abuse. He has since resigned from the priesthood, the diocese said.

Mark David Blum, the attorney for the family proceeding to trial, referred to the cash payment as an attempt by the church to buy the silence of victims. Blum contends that high-ranking officials of the diocese were aware of problems with Casey. Several witnesses are scheduled to testify that they had conversations with Bishop Thomas Costello about Casey in which Costello admitted knowing that the priest was a pedophile, Blum said.

State Supreme Court Justice William R. Roy signed an order last week authorizing the testimony of one of those witnesses, Susan Sweet, after the defense objected to her being called as a witness. In a July 10 videotaped deposition, Sweet testified that she had at least three conversations with Bishop Costello in which he admitted knowing about Casey having a problem with children.

``The Catholic Church knew this guy had a problem,'' Blum said. ``Instead of dealing with it, they put everyone in the community at risk by cycling this priest around instead of reporting him to the police.''

Sweet, a commissioned youth minister for the diocese, claimed in her testimony that Costello said officials had tried to help Casey for 15 years without any success. But in a May deposition Costello denied ever telling anyone the church was aware of any problem.

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