April 17, 2006

Priest misconduct trial opens today; first of 17 lawsuits

Times Argus

April 17, 2006

By Kevin O'Connor Rutland Herald

Jury selection is set to start today in the first of 17 priest misconduct lawsuits against Vermont's Catholic Church.

Burlington's Chittenden Superior Court has scheduled two days for choosing 12 jurors and three alternates to decide the civil case of Michael Gay, a 38-year-old South Burlington man who claims the Rev. Edward Paquette "sexually abused and sexually exploited" him as an altar boy from ages 10 to 12. In his lawsuit, Gay says the church knew the priest had a history of assaulting boys but did nothing to stop him.

Court paperwork limits description of the allegations to "unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual contact" and seeks financial damages "in an amount deemed appropriate by the jury." A gag order restricts lawyers from saying anything more to the press. But all involved anticipate Gay's lawyer, Jerome O'Neill of Burlington, will offer a headline-grabbing opening statement if the trial starts Wednesday as scheduled.

The defendant, now 77 and retired in Massachusetts, has told the court he won't attend because he's about to receive daily radiation treatments for prostate cancer and can't afford lodging for a trial set to run up to two weeks. But that won't stop Gay's case against the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which is wrestling with its own concerns.

Posted by kshaw at April 17, 2006 06:57 AM