March 08, 2005

Civil trials begin of priests accused of sexual abuse

The Daily Review

By Glenn Chapman, STAFF WRITER

HAYWARD As negotiations continue in an effort to hammer out a "global settlement" in about 160 priest sex abuse suits including several involving former Fremont priests the first of the Clergy III civil trials commenced Monday in a Hayward courtroom.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard met for about 90 minutes with the attorney representing former altar boy Bob Thatcher and lawyers defending the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland and the accused abuser, Robert Ponciroli.

Sheppard was presented with two large piles of briefs he is to review before rival attorneys return to his courtroom on Wednesday to argue motions, which include requests to limit evidence and expert testimony at trial. Jury selection is expected to begin as early as Thursday.

Unless there is a settlement, Sheppard will preside over a civil trial pitting Thatcher and his lawyer, Richard Simons, against retired priest Ponciroli and the Oakland diocese.

Ponciroli, 68, is accused of abusing Thatcher from 1979 to 1982 while Thatcher was an altar boy at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch. The Oakland diocese includes Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The Thatcher case is one of several naming Ponciroli as an abuser.

Posted by kshaw at March 8, 2005 06:49 AM