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October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Abuse agreement seen still in works

By Walter V. Robinson and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 3/9/2002

A tentative agreement reached Monday between the Archdiocese of Boston and lawyers for victims of former priest John J. Geoghan has yet to be finalized. But Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney for the 86 plaintiffs, said yesterday that prospects for the settlement remain positive.

Garabedian declined to say what has prevented a settlement, but said he hopes there will be progress at a meeting that is slated to be held on Monday. A meeting between the parties that had been scheduled for yesterday was canceled.

For the archdiocese, meanwhile, the stakes rose yesterday. Because of the unresolved issues, the two sides, by prior agreement, scheduled a sworn deposition for Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

If there is no settlement, Garabedian said, the cardinal will have to appear for pretrial testimony at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3. Under a court order freeing up public access to documents in the case, Law's deposition would be made public. If there is a settlement, Law would not have to testify.

On Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported that a tentative agreement had been reached, in which the archdiocese would pay between $20 million and $30 million, to be apportioned among the plaintiffs by a mediator, based upon the severity of the abuse each suffered. But for the settlement to be approved, all 86 plaintiffs and the 17 defendants, Law among them, have to agree to its terms. And for the 86, they have to agree beforehand that they will accept the amount of damages picked by the mediator.

According to sources knowledgeable about the negotiations, some of Garabedian's clients have expressed dissatisfaction with the settlement amount. And some lawyers who are not involved in the case have publicly asserted that the settlement figures should be substantially higher in light of evidence that Law transferred Geoghan with knowledge that he had molested children.

Garabedian, in a telephone interview yesterday, said it is not true that his clients are unhappy with the proposal. He said the sticking points do not involve the money amount, but declined to elaborate.

In an unusual public debate, some attorneys who represent other alleged victims of sex abuse by priests have said in interviews this week that they believe Garabedian's clients should be able to receive higher settlements.

The Globe reported on Tuesday that while the average payment would be between $232,000 and $348,000, victims of more serious abuse by Geoghan could receive more than $500,000 each.

One of those attorneys, Roderick MacLeish Jr., said yesterday that those who were severely abused ''ought to be able to get much more than $500,000.''

Based upon what the Globe reported, MacLeish said, the amounts ''do not strike me as even close to fair and equitable compensation.'' But MacLeish said he does not want to do anything to ''upset the apple cart'' and said he hopes that the Geoghan cases are quickly settled.

Garabedian, asked about the outside comments, said, ''Given that the details of the negotiations have not been public, I do not see how anybody who is not aware of those details can make meaningful comments.''

In interviews yesterday, some attorneys said it was rare for others in the profession to speak publicly about another lawyer's pending settlement, especially when it had not been finalized. Yet one, Wendy Murphy, said it was good for lawyers to speak up on a matter of such public importance.

Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman, who counts himself among MacLeish's friends, said comments from outside lawyers are not appropriate. Without referring directly to MacLeish, Newman said, ''For lawyers who are not privy to the details to make comments about the relative fairness of a settlement can be incendiary and unfair.''

''It's hard for anyone to be a Monday morning quarterback for someone who has been living with a case for years,'' said attorney Clyde D. Bergstresser. He noted that while it is not uncommon for attorneys to comment on how other lawyers handled a case, ''you don't see it happen much on the record.''

Murphy, who is representing an unidentified victim allegedly molested by the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, disagreed: ''There is nothing wrong with asking these tough questions, and I'm sure Mitchell Garabedian has asked them himself.''

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 3/9/2002.
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