Church seeks delay of trial

September 08, 1993|By Frank P.L. Somerville | Frank P.L. Somerville,Staff Writer

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Capuchin religious order, among the defendants in a $100 million lawsuit brought by the victim of a priest's sexual abuse, asked a Baltimore judge yesterday to postpone the trial because of recent publicity about such cases.

Circuit Judge Hilary D. Caplan has not yet ruled on the motions. The beginning of jury selection had been expected, but lawyers remained closeted with him in chambers all day.

The suit was filed Jan. 14, 1992, by a woman who was 13 in 1985, when more than two years of nearly daily sex began with Richard G. Deakin, 38, a former Capuchin friar. He was assistant pastor of St. Martin's Church in West Baltimore at the time.

He was convicted in 1990 of raping and abusing her and was given a suspended sentence in a plea bargain.

Deakin had been moved in 1987 by church authorities to the Pittsburgh diocese, which was not told by his Baltimore superiors about his history of lewd behavior here, according to depositions in the case.

He was dismissed from the priesthood in 1989 for marrying a woman parishioner in Rochester, Pa.

If there is neither a postponement nor an out-of-court settlement in the civil case, the jury will be asked to decide whether church officials, including retired Archbishop William D. Borders, took reasonable precautions to protect the girl from the criminal advances of the clergyman. Archbishop Borders is one of the defendants. The suit seeks damages for "emotional distress, anxiety, fear, physical anguish, and psychological and emotional trauma."

The other defendants, in addition to Deakin and the archdiocese itself, are the Capuchin Franciscan Order of the Province of St. Augustine, of which Deakin had been a member; Monsignor G. Michael Schleupner, formerly chancellor of the Baltimore Archdiocese; and four officials of the Capuchin order, which staffs St. Martin's parish. They are the Very Rev. Francis Fugini, the Rev. John Harvey, the Rev. Ward Stakem and the Rev. William J. Wiethorn.

Lawyers' conferences with Judge Caplan yesterday related to guidelines for the selection of jurors. It was also understood that intense efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement have not been abandoned.

A thick file of pleadings, answers and depositions in the case provides a public view of church officials' secret handling of clergy misconduct and raises questions about the adequacy of their response to evidence of sexual abuse by priests.

Court documents say Deakin's abuse of the plaintiff began with fondling in 1985. After January 1986, he and the girl were having intercourse five times a week in the priest's bedroom, his office, the church basement, Sunday school rooms and the parish automobile.

In a ruling April 20 last year, Judge Caplan blocked efforts by archdiocesan attorneys to force the names of the sex-abuse victim and her mother into the public record. Pseudonyms -- Jane and Mary Doe -- are being used in the court records.

The suit coincides with efforts by the Catholic archdiocese to deal with unrelated sexual abuse accusations against another priest, a popular Baltimore County pastor who committed suicide Aug. 21.

In two earlier civil suits involving a third local priest who abused boys in Anne Arundel County, the boys' families settled out of court to protect their privacy after judges agreed with the archdiocesan argument that the young victims' actual names must be in the record.

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