28 Oct 2010

Victim in Seattle priest abuse trial settles case

The Seattle Times - May 18, 2009

By TIM KLASS | Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE — One of two men suing the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese over sexual abuse by a priest has agreed to a mid-trial settlement.

The other plaintiff continued to press his claims in King County Superior Court and is unlikely to settle in the first sexual abuse case against the archdiocese to go to trial, one of his lawyers, Timothy D. Kosnoff, told reporters Monday outside the courtroom.

"He wants to see this all the way through to the end ... and that means a decision by the jury," Kosnoff said.

The man who accepted the settlement, a teenager in the 1970s when he was molested repeatedly by former priest Patrick G. O'Donnell, will receive about $600,000, Kosnoff said.

Michael A. Patterson, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said the settlement was for $550,000 and did not include legal fees or expenses.

Combined with earlier settlements with the Spokane Diocese, where O'Donnell became a child abuser, and a religious order that operated the seminary where O'Donnell was trained as a priest, the man is receiving close to $1 million, Kosnoff said.

Judge Paris K. Kallas cautioned jurors not to draw any conclusions from the agreement.

Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the Seattle archdiocese, said the victim's lawyers called Sunday night and accepted a settlement offer the archdiocese had made two months ago during mediation.

"He would have had to testify about some of the most painful experiences of his life," Kosnoff said. "He chose not to do that. ... He felt that he had achieved everything he wanted to achieve in this trial."

The archdiocese previously settled more than 200 sex abuse cases involving a number of priests. It now has fewer than 20 claims pending.

Kallas has allotted four weeks for the trial, which began last week.

Retired Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, 87, testified Monday that his close friend and former college teacher and mentor, the late Spokane Bishop Bernard J. Topel, never told him O'Donnell was a serial child abuser before or after O'Donnell arrived in Seattle in 1976.

Hunthausen said he could not explain why he accepted O'Donnell into the archdiocese and allowed him full powers of ministry without the usual documentation required of priests who temporarily move to another diocese. Hunthausen acknowledged he should have done more to check the priest's background.

"It was a breach on my part," Hunthausen said. "It's hard to acknowledge that now. It hurts me."

O'Donnell, 66, testified last week and apologized for what he had done after Topel sent him to Seattle for sexual deviancy counseling and treatment in 1976-78, the fifth professional attempt to get him to stop molesting adolescent boys.

O'Donnell testified that he couldn't remember how many boys he abused - "I'm pretty sure it was 30, maybe more."

Hunthausen testified that based on a telephone conversation between Topel and the archdiocese chancellor at the time, Msgr. John Doogan, he believed O'Donnell was in Seattle to attend the University of Washington. O'Donnell earned a doctorate in education during those years.

Hunthausen said he did not see the need for a background check, interview or other investigation of O'Donnell's fitness. "The assumption was that he was a priest in good standing because of my relationship with Bishop Topel," he said.

Michael T. Pfau, another lawyer for the plaintiff, pressed Hunthausen further.

"Your best friend sent a pedophile to your diocese without telling you anything?" Pfau asked.

"That's what it amounts to," the archbishop said.

Even though O'Donnell was "one of Spokane's most dangerous sex offenders?" the lawyer continued.

"Yes, that's why it hurts so much," Hunthausen said.

"I definitely feel that he should have told me," he said in response to a question from Patterson. "I have struggled with why."

Kallas read Hunthausen a question from a juror asking whether Topel, even "in last rites" before he died in 1986, ever told the archbishop that O'Donnell was known to be a child abuser when the priest was sent to Seattle.

"No, he did not," Hunthausen said.

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