A former Mater Dei High student's legal team alleges that Tod Brown sent a key witness out of the country to prevent testimony.
Lawyers for a former Mater Dei High School student suing the RomanCatholic Diocese of Orange in a sex abuse case are seeking to holdBishop Tod Brown in contempt of court, arguing that he allowed hischief investigator of molestation complaints to be sent to a Canadiantreatment center so that he could avoid testifying.
Msgr. John Urell is under a court order to complete a deposition thatabruptly ended in July after about six hours of questioning, when hebecame overwhelmed with emotion and walked out in tears, telling thejudge he was unsure whether he would ever be able to finish.
Brown later testified during his deposition that he made the decisionthis month to send Urell to Southdown Institute, a facility that treatsclergy for a variety of conditions, knowing at the time that themonsignor was required to resume his deposition.
Brown "has acted with knowing and willful contravention of a courtorder for the further deposition of Msgr. Urell, by intentionallyremoving him from the country and therefore the jurisdiction of thiscourt, for the apparent purpose of depriving plaintiff of thetestimony," the student's attorneys argued in court papers filedWednesday.
Peter Callahan, the lead attorney representing the diocese, had notseen the contempt motion but dismissed it as a media ploy. He suggestedthat it was misdirected because it would make more sense to hold thewitness Urell accountable, rather than his employer, the bishop.
A spokesman for the bishop did not return a phone call.
Callahan said Urell's attorney, Patrick A. Hennessey, has offered toprovide the court with a physician's report of the monsignor's medicalcondition, provided that all sides agree to keep the informationconfidential.
Hennessey released a statement Wednesday that said the monsignorsuffers from acute anxiety disorder related to his role as thediocese's point man in investigating sexual abuse cases, and is in nocondition to testify. According to Hennessey, Urell needs at leastthree months of intense treatment and hospitalization before hisphysician can determine whether he is healthy enough to withstand therigors of a deposition.
The student's attorneys allege that the diocese is trying to hide thetruth. The motion is the latest volley in a lawsuit that has raisedquestions about how Brown, Urell and other diocese officials handledallegations against priests and laypersons.
The lawsuit was filed by a woman identified as Jane C.R. Doe, whoaccuses former Mater Dei assistant basketball coach Jeff Andrade ofmolesting her for more than a year, starting when she was 15. In hisdeposition taken as part of the lawsuit, Andrade admitted he had hadsex with the teen.
Urell is considered a key witness because he was the diocesan officialin charge of investigating allegations of sexual abuse that occurredfrom the late 1980s to the early 2000s. He is the pastor at St.Norbert's Catholic Church in Orange.firstname.lastname@example.org
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