Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fraud case against Fresno diocese delayed

Fraud case against Fresno diocese delayed
Posted at 11:23 PM on Friday, Jul. 30, 2010
By Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee Share

■Priest sex abuse test case in Fresno court
Priest sex abuse test case in Fresno courtA Fresno courtroom will soon be the testing grounds for a new legal strategy that could help people sue the Catholic Church in cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests -- even if the statute of limitations has expired.
The Fresno County Superior Court case involves a former altar boy who says his Bakersfield parish priest told him "God wants you to do this" as he molested the teen 17 years ago.
California's statute of limitation prevents him from suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno for sexual abuse. So he is suing for fraud instead.

■Pa. diocese sued after abuse accuser's suicide
Pa. diocese sued after abuse accuser's suicideThe estate of a man allegedly abused by a priest in the 1980s is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, alleging he committed suicide this year after the diocese stopped paying for his mental health treatments after two other suicide attempts.
Michael Unglo, 39, formerly of Etna in suburban Pittsburgh, committed suicide in May at a center in Stockbridge, Mass., according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press. He alleged he was molested in the early 1980s while an altar boy by a priest who was convicted of molesting another boy and later resigned.
The diocese decided to stop paying for Unglo's treatment even though the diocese continued to pay for the priest's health insurance and a monthly stipend, Alan Perer, attorney for Unglo's estate, said Thursday at a news conference.

■Reform crucial
Reform crucialI applaud the brave clergy sex abuse victim who is trying a novel legal approach to hold Catholic officials responsible for a pedophile priest's crimes ("Priest sex abuse test case in Fresno court," July 10).
It's clear that California's archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations, which prevents most victims from taking action in court against those who molested them, needs drastic reform. Until that happens, however, it's crucial that victims keep trying to find ways to expose offenders, protect kids, and get healing.
John Smith

■Valley news of the week -- July 11-17
Valley news of the week -- July 11-17Magnet for crime? That was the comparison suggested by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims in speaking to county supervisors last week about the need to limit medical-marijuana shops that are springing up in unincorporated areas.
But readers of The Bee commenting online heaped scorn on the idea, making for one of the liveliest discussions in recent weeks.
Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers on

■Judge may toss part of Idaho Boy Scout abuse suit
Judge may toss part of Idaho Boy Scout abuse suitA federal judge said Tuesday he's inclined to dismiss many of the claims in a lawsuit against the Mormon church made by a man who says the church didn't do enough to stop a Boy Scout troop leader from sexually abusing children.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter gave a tentative ruling saying he would likely dismiss most of the claims in the man's lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Carter also said he may allow a fraud claim to move forward.
The tentative ruling allows attorneys on all sides to more narrowly tailor their arguments to the points the judge believes are most pertinent to the case.
Legal arguments in a civil lawsuit that accuses the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno of fraud have been delayed to Sept. 9 in Fresno County Superior Court.

Initially, Judge Adolfo Corona was scheduled to consider the church's request to dismiss the lawsuit next Thursday, but new documents filed by the plaintiff's lawyer, Joseph C. George, prompted the judge to continue the hearing.

Both sides, however, will meet for a case management conference on Aug. 9.

George is using a novel legal strategy -- he is suing for fraud because the deadline to file a sex abuse case has passed.

The case involves a former altar boy who says his Bakersfield parish priest molested him 17 years ago.

Crime and courts coverage The lawsuit contends the diocese committed fraud when Bishop John T. Steinbock broke a promise.

The former altar boy says Steinbock told him he would defrock the priest who allegedly molested him.

But the accused molester, the Rev. Father Hermy Dave Ceniza, continues to work as a priest in the Philippines, according to George, who represents the former altar boy.

Lawyers for the Fresno diocese, which includes Bakersfield, said the suit is legally defective because Steinbock kept his promise and got rid of Ceniza -- though they don't deny he still is a priest.

While suing the Catholic Church for fraud has been tried in other states, this could be the first time a California judge will rule on it.

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