Sex abuse suit against priest, archdiocese settled Deakin apologizes in Baltimore court

September 09, 1993|By Frank P.L. Somerville | Frank P.L. Somerville,Staff Writer

A victim of child sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest and the defendants in a lawsuit she filed early last year, including the Baltimore archdiocese, have reached an out-of-court financial settlement, their lawyers said today.

The suit was brought by a woman who is now 21 but who was a young teen-ager when she was sexually abused by the priest, Richard G. Deakin, 38. He was assistant pastor of St. Martin's Catholic Church at Fulton Avenue and Fayette Street in West Baltimore at the time.

The woman and her mother had sought a total of $100 million in damages from Deakin, the archdiocese, the Capuchin religious order, retired Archbishop William D. Borders and five other church officials.

The archbishop was accused of allowing the priest to continue his ministry and his abuse of the young victim even though he had evidence of the man's sexual misconduct.

Terms of the financial settlement were not disclosed.

Lawyers for the archdiocese and for the Capuchin Franciscan Order of the Province of St. Augustine, to which Deakin had belonged before his dismissal in 1989, were retained by two of the church's insurers.

The announcement of the settlement came in the courtroom of Baltimore Circuit Judge Hilary D. Caplan, who praised the professionalism of all the lawyers involved.

Except for the comments of the judge, the only public statement in court was by Deakin, who asked to make a statement of apology to the church "for the scandal I have caused." He began by asking the plaintiff and her family to forgive him and said he hoped that the pain he caused them could be healed.

Selection of a jury was to have begun this week before Judge Caplan, but intensive efforts to reach a settlement continued as the judge met behind closed doors, beginning Tuesday, with lawyers for the plaintiff and for the various defendants.

Judge Caplan, in a ruling April 20 last year, blocked efforts by archdiocesan attorneys to force the names of the sex-abuse victim and her mother into the public record. While their true identities were known to the defendants, pseudonyms for the two women were used in the court documents.

Deakin was convicted in 1990 on rape and child abuse charges involving the plaintiff. He received a suspended 15-year sentence and was placed on probation for five years in a plea bargain with Baltimore prosecutors.

Documents filed in the civil case say the sexual abuse by the priest began with fondling in 1985, when the victim was 13, and after January 1986, he and the girl were having intercourse five times a week in the priest's bedroom at St. Martin's, his office, the church basement, Sunday School rooms and the parish automobile.

If the case had gone to trial, a jury would have been asked to decide whether the church authorities took reasonable precautions to protect the girl from the priest's criminal advances.

The suit alleged that as the result of Deakin's abuse, the victim "suffers and will suffer in the future from emotional distress, anxiety, fear, physical anguish, and psychological and emotional trauma." She has been a patient at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson.

The defense lawyers claimed the girl was guilty of contributory negligence because she did not report to the priest's superiors or to the police what he was doing to her between 1985 and 1987. More than two years later, she told her mother, who told police.

Deakin was functioning as a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh when he was dismissed from the Capuchin order Dec. 13, 1989, for marrying a parishioner in Rochester, Pa.

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