January 23, 2005

Local lawyer takes on priest sex abuse

Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: January 23, 2005)

Attorney Ken Roosa thought his first case in 2002 involving four men who say a Catholic priest sexually abused them in the village of St. Marys would be solved in mediation with the Diocese of Fairbanks and the Jesuits.

The men who came forward and said they were molested as children by the Rev. Jules Convert appeared to be the only ones, Roosa said recently. But mediation failed. Roosa, a bearded ex-prosecutor who spent years working with sexual abuse victims, and the four men, identified in the lawsuit as John Does 1-4, sued in June 2003.

Not long after, a man who had followed the national coverage of priest sex abuse called Roosa from Texas and said he too had been abused by Convert as a child in rural Alaska. In November, he got a call from another man with similar accusations against Convert.

Eventually, the lawsuit included 18 plaintiffs who say Convert invited them, as boys between 6 and 16 years of age, to spend the night with him, sometimes asking them to sleep in their underwear or even naked. They say they would awake in the middle of the night and find the priest fondling them, according to the civil complaint filed in Bethel Superior Court.

As publicity about the first case spread, the issue gained momentum and the number of lawsuits has swollen to four, with dozens of victims from rural Alaska saying they were abused by priests in Bush Alaska for decades. Nearly all the victims are represented by Roosa, who has become the nexus for Catholic priest sex abuse cases in Alaska, gaining expertise in the intricacies of Catholic canonical law, personnel structure and record-keeping.

Posted by kshaw at January 23, 2005 07:38 AM