March 19, 2005

S.F. Archdiocese liable in '70s abuse cases

San Francisco Chronicle

Stacy Finz, Don Lattin, Chronicle Staff Writers

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Jurors at a key sexual abuse trial found Friday that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco knew or should have known that a San Jose priest was molesting boys in his parish in the early 1970s.

The jury's 10-2 decision puts new pressure on the church to reach what could be a costly collective settlement with dozens of other abuse claimants in Northern California. Unlike a criminal trial where a unanimous verdict is required, a civil lawsuit can be decided on a 9-3 jury vote.

Dennis Kavanaugh, 47, said he was molested by the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard as many as 30 times from 1971 to 1973 while he attended St. Martin of Tours Church in San Jose, which at the time was overseen by the San Francisco Archdiocese. He said the archdiocese could have put a stop to the abuse, but didn't.

The six-woman, six-man jury began deliberating before noon on Thursday after hearing more than two days of emotional testimony. The verdict came before 10 a.m. Friday.

As the verdict was read by the court clerk, people in the gallery clapped and sobbed. One woman screamed in apparent relief.

The spontaneous celebration prompted San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Munter to shout for order.

Posted by kshaw at March 19, 2005 06:22 AM