March 08, 2005

Priest molesting case begins

Mercury News

By Mary Anne Ostrom
Mercury News

The first priest sex-abuse case filed against the Archdiocese of San Francisco got under way Monday, with the attorney for a San Jose man telling a judge that his client plans to testify he was molested between 20 and 30 times by the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard while he was a student at St. Martin of Tours, in San Jose, in the early 1970s.

Attorney Larry Drivon said Dennis Kavanaugh plans to tell a San Francisco Superior Court jury that he has suffered emotional distress from the experience and ``feels guilty'' about not speaking out sooner to protect other children from Pritchard. Nearly two dozen men, one woman and Pritchard's nephew have all filed cases against the archdiocese, charging that it knew about Pritchard's pedophilia but refused to act. He died of cancer in 1998 while assigned to St. Nicholas parish in Los Altos.

The progress of this and a separate case, which also started today in Alameda County Superior Court, is being closely watched. These are the first civil trials arising from a 2002 state law that lifted the statute of limitations, allowing a one-year period for the filing of civil lawsuits against employers charged with negligence in sexual abuse cases.

In the aftermath, more than 100 sex-abuse cases have been filed against Northern California dioceses.

On Monday, settlement negotiations ordered by an Oakland judge in dozens of these cases against the Oakland diocese continued. Settlements with the San Francisco diocese, including one in the Kavanaugh case, also could happen at any time, say church and plaintiff attorneys, spurred on by the approaching trials.

Posted by kshaw at March 8, 2005 06:59 AM