Archbishop fights legal motion in sex-abuse case
The Archdiocese of Miami has filed an appeal trying to prevent thedeposition of the archbishop in a sexual abuse case involving the Rev.Neil Doherty.
BY AMY SHERMAN
The Archdiocese of Miami is fighting to keep Archbishop John C.Favalora from being deposed in a civil lawsuit alleging that a retiredMargate priest sexually abused a boy in the 1990s.
Favalora was archbishop during the time that the Rev. Neil Dohertyof St. Vincent Catholic Church is accused of molesting the boy.Favalora was also at the helm when the archdiocese placed Doherty onleave in 2002.
But the archdiocese argues in a September court motion that theplaintiff's attorney, Jeffrey Herman, is trying to harass Favalora.
Herman said the archdiocese is dodging.
''They do not want Favalora to have to tell the truth under theoath,'' said Herman, who has filed about 40 sexual abuse casesinvolving priests in Florida. ``What are they hiding? I think they arerunning from the truth.''
The Doherty case would be the first in which Herman, who has handledmost of the local lawsuits against priests, has deposed an archbishopin Florida. Herman said he was not aware of any others.
But courts nationwide have generally allowed plaintiffs to deposehigh-ranking church officials, although many cases settle before theyreach that stage.
In October, Broward Circuit Judge Dorian Damoorgian gave Herman the go-ahead to depose Favalora.
But the archdiocese filed an appeal Nov. 27 trying to stop it.
Last year, Herman filed a $25 million lawsuit against thearchdiocese on behalf of John Doe, 22. The man said Doherty sexuallyabused him during the 1990s, starting when he was about 11.
In January, Broward prosecutors charged Doherty in a criminal caserelated to the same victim. If convicted, the 63-year-old faces life inprison.
The archdiocese argued in a motion that Favalora has no first-hand knowledge related to this lawsuit.
But Herman said Favalora is familiar with allegations involving Doherty.
Favalora became the archbishop of Miami on Nov. 3, 1994.
Archdiocese memos show that a settlement was in the works inDecember 1994 for a case involving a boy who Doherty allegedly druggedand raped, Herman said.
Also in letters, Favalora indicates that he knew about allegationsinvolving Doherty. In 2002, he wrote a letter to Doherty placing him onleave after reviewing files that showed ``credible evidence in yourparticular case which raises questions to be considered.''
The archdiocese's knowledge of Doherty's pedophilia surfaced in a2003 memorandum by the Broward State Attorney's Office. In that memo, asex-crimes prosecutor disclosed the 1994 settlement with a student whohad been enrolled at Chaminade High School in Hollywood decadesearlier. The archdiocese didn't notify authorities about the matteruntil 2002, according to the prosecutor's memo.
In the early 1990s, then-Archbishop Edward McCarthy ordered aninternal investigation, including a mental health evaluation ofDoherty. The evaluator recommended that Doherty be temporarilysuspended, but that didn't happen.
Herman said the archdiocese has also filed an appeal over a requestfor a set of files related to a 2002 internal investigation of Doherty.
The archdiocese declined to comment Tuesday. But in a court motion,it argued that Favalora has privileged legal status that prevents hisdeposition from being taken if the information is available throughother means.
A 2002 Florida Supreme Court sexual abuse lawsuit involving the Rev.Jan Malicki of St. David Catholic Church in Davie cleared the way fordozens of civil suits. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected theArchdiocese of Miami's argument that the First Amendment shielded itfrom responsibility for clergy misconduct.
The decision means that the typical rules of civil procedure apply''and would permit a plaintiff to take the depositions of anybody whohad knowledge which could and would include the archbishop,'' saidAventura attorney William Snihur, who won that case.
St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has filed more than 2,000priest abuse cases nationwide, said churches often fight depositions ofhigh-ranking clergy.
''They try to prevent it in the first instance, delay it in thesecond instance and keep it secret in the third,'' but typically theycan't, said Anderson, who estimates that he has deposed about 15archbishops.
Miami Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.
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