Victim, archdiocese reach settlement Priest sexually abused her as teen

September 10, 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 yesterday.

A condition of the settlement is that the amount of the damages and the other terms must remain a secret.

The suit was brought by a woman, now 21, who was a 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, all priests.

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

None of the defendants except Deakin was present in Baltimore Circuit Judge Hilary D. Caplan's courtroom yesterday as attorneys for each of the parties announced they had reached the agreement.

Except for the comments by the judge, who praised the professionalism of the lawyers, the only remarks in court were by Deakin, who was permitted 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.

As he made his brief remarks quietly but in a firm voice with his lawyer standing beside him, Deakin, wearing a gray business suit, faced Judge Caplan. His victim was not in the courtroom.

Attorneys representing Archbishop Borders, the archdiocese and the Capuchin Franciscan Order of the Province of St. TC Augustine, to which Deakin had belonged before his dismissal in 1989, were retained by two of the church's insurers, which will pay the damages.

Calling the case "a tragedy for many people," a spokesman for the archdiocese said it "acted in accord with its policies" as soon as Deakin's misconduct was known.

An attorney for the plaintiff, Stephen M. Schenning of the Towson firm of Nolan, Plumhoff & Williams, said outside the courtroom, "We and our client are satisfied with the terms of the settlement. It addresses her needs and concerns."

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 lawyers 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. After January 1986, he and the girl were having intercourse five times a week, the documents said. 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."

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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