The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Lawyer for Geoghan plaintiffs says negotiations continue

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 3/7/2002

The lawyer for 86 alleged victims of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan said yesterday that he is continuing to hammer out final details of a settlement agreement with the Archdiocese of Boston, and confirmed a report in Tuesday's Globe that the settlement is expected to cost the church between $20 million and $30 million.

Mitchell Garabedian, speaking to reporters in his Boston office, said two issues have yet to be resolved, both concerning the legal discovery process. He declined to provide specifics. Discovery refers to the information gathered by lawyers in legal cases.

''All I can say is they don't concern money,'' said Garabedian, who has spent 11 months negotiating with church lawyers over a settlement in the litigation. The case has cast scrutiny on the archdiocese's oversight of Geoghan as he allegedly molested children in six parishes over 30 years.

Yesterday afternoon, the archdiocese issued a statement criticizing Garabedian for speaking publicly about the negotiations.

(Clarification, 3/8/2002: The statement by the Archdiocese of Boston, which was issued after Garabedian's news conference, did not criticize the attorney by name.)

''During the mediation process, and any subsequent court proceedings, it is detrimental to the ultimate outcome of a fair and just resolution for the victims to have any ongoing public discussions about specifics of the legal process,'' the statement read.

A final agreement is unlikely to be reached before lawyers for both sides meet again tomorrow, Garabedian said. All 86 plaintiffs and the 17 defendants, which include Law, must sign the agreement before it is considered official.

The dispute is near resolution after negotiations overseen by Paul A. Finn, a lawyer and mediator. Finn's firm, Commonwealth Mediation, mediated settlements in the early 1990s involving more than 100 victims of James R. Porter, a pedophile priest from the Fall River diocese.

Finn's firm will set the final award for each claimant. Garabedian said each of the 86 plaintiffs will be granted a two-hour hearing to discuss damages. The arbitration process is not expected to start until May.

Garabedian noted that none of the settlement agreements will be accompanied by secrecy clauses, which in past clergy sex abuse cases have prevented information about abusive priests from being made public.

''The secrecy has to end. That's what caused these problems,'' said Garabedian. ''There's a subculture of darkness out there and it's fueled by secrecy.''

Last month, Geoghan began serving a sentence of nine to 10 years after being convicted of one count of molesting one child. He still faces criminal charges in two upcoming trials, one of which charges him with raping a child.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 3/7/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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