A hearing was held last Friday in Charlotte in the priest sex abuse cases of John Doe and Vincent Cook v. Charlotte Diocese, and John Doe 1K and John Doe 2K v. Charlotte Diocese. The Diocese has filed a motion for summary judgment, and if the judge grants the motion both cases will end at that point. The firm represents three of the four plaintiffs in the case, and Leto Copeley argued to the judge that the plaintiffs are entitled to a trial by jury.
The plaintiffs say that they were molested in the 1970s and 1980s by Fr. Richard Farwell and Fr. Joseph Kelleher. Farwell pled no contest to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Kelleher is currently facing criminal charges for his conduct toward one of the plaintiffs. The charges have been pending since 2010 and no trial date has been set. The Diocese argues that the same three-year statute of limitations that applies to personal injury cases should apply to this case. The plaintiffs, however, argue that they have claims of constructive fraud and equitable estoppel, meaning that the statute should be extended because of information that church officials, including three bishops, were aware of sex abuse by priests but covered it up. Information presented in court included the following:
A witness testified by deposition that between 1978 and 2005 he informed three different bishops that Fr. Kelleher had told him that he liked sleeping in bed with underage boys, and that he had encouraged the witness to drink alcohol although he was underage.
In his own deposition, Fr. Kelleher testified that he could not remember whether he slept in a bed with underage children on overnight trips on behalf of churches in the Diocese. In the same deposition, Fr. Kelleher asserted his Fifth Amendment rights when asked about his activities with multiple alleged victims of sex abuse. Pleading the Fifth Amendment can’t be held against a criminal defendant but in civil court, it is admissible.
Back in 1985, when Fr. Farwell was sent by the Diocese to the House of Affirmation, a facility that treated child molesters, Diocesan officials misled Farwell’s congregation about where he was going and why he was going there.
In 2000, a fellow priest discouraged a sex abuse victim of Fr. Farwell from going forward with his complaint.
The plaintiffs have learned from subpoena to the Archdiocese of Miami that in August 2000, Bishop Curlin certified to that facility thatFr. Farwell had not manifested “behavioral problems in the past that would indicate he might deal with minors I an inappropriate manner.” This was despite the Diocese knowing that Fr. Farwell had received treatment at the House of Affirmation, where he was introduced to the 12-step program Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.