Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Judge allows lawsuit against former bishop to continue

Judge allows lawsuit against former bishop to continue
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
SARASOTA — A Sarasota circuit court judge heard a number of motions in a lawsuit against a retired Catholic bishop accused of sexual assault Wednesday and the suit against the Most Rev. Priamo Tejeda will continue with some modifications.
Tejeda, who assisted at St. Peter the Apostle parish in East Naples from 2004 until his faculties were removed following the allegations surfacing last April, is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a now 42-year-old Cuban man over an 11-year period, most recently in Broward County in 2005.
None of the alleged assaults took place in Southwest Florida.
The suit also contends that the local Diocese of Venice where Tejeda had served since 1997 after retiring from the Diocese of Baní in the Dominican Republic was negligent and liable for Tejeda’s activities.
Judge Robert Bennett denied motions by Tejeda’s Melbourne-based attorney George Ollinger to dismiss the case and took under advisement a motion to identify the plaintiff by his full name. Currently, the plaintiff is named in the suit by his initials, “J.G.”
Ollinger said a public record of J.G.’s name was an issue of equity and contended J.G. had a history of trying to extort clergy for money and shelter. Ollinger added that J.G. has had mental issues, homelessness and drug addiction in his past.
J.G.’s Miami-based attorney Ronald Weil argued that Ollinger’s real goal was to humiliate his client.
“The idea that the victim should be outed, that is that he should be made to reveal his identity, I suppose is part of a strategy that’s simply embarrassing,” Weil said.
After hearing from diocese attorney Robert Radel, Bennett dismissed the diocese from the complaint, while allowing Weil to resubmit a more definite statement against the Church. Weil had argued that an investigation by City of Venice police in 2000 showed that the local Catholic hierarchy should have been aware of aberrant behavior by Tejeda and acted accordingly. Weil added that he believed Tejeda left his previous position in the Dominican Republic because of similar issues.
But Radel argued that parts of the complaint were written simply to attract media attention. One allegation in the complaint called the diocese a “toxic dumping ground and refuge for pedophilic priests.”
“A complaint is not a press release,” Radel said.
Bennett agreed, calling sections of the complaint “excessive,” “inflammatory” and “over the top.”
After the ruling, Weil said he planned to re-file a new complaint against the diocese.
A Diocese of Venice spokeswoman has said that the Church acted appropriately by withdrawing Tejeda’s faculties once it learned of the allegations.

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