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25 Men Join Sex-Abuse Lawsuit Against Priest

May 30, 2000 | AP

For years, Doug Ray's wife talked about growing up on a farm and couldn't understand why her husband was so silent about his own childhood. He went public with the reason yesterday as part of a sex-abuse lawsuit against a Roman Catholic priest.

From the third or fourth grade until he was a freshman in high school, he said, his parish priest subjected him to "an incremental scale of sexual abuse as bad as one can imagine, and worse."

Joe Elliott said he had a similar experience with the same priest, the Rev. Maurice Grammond, now the target of a $115 million civil suit by 25 men who say they were abused by him as children.

"My parents entrusted us to Grammond believing this would be the last place harm would come to us. He and the church broke that trust," Elliott said yesterday.

Ray and Elliott said they were molested during the 1970s in Seaside, where Ray is a city councilman. Elliott is a hairdresser in Portland.

Elliott, 41, was the first to accuse Grammond in a lawsuit in December. Others joined gradually, with 13 joining in Friday.

Both sat in front of enlarged photos of themselves as grade-school students and seemed on the verge of tears at times. Several other men who are party to the suit also were present but kept their anonymity.

Attorney David Slader said the case is the second-biggest of its kind after the case of the Rev. James Porter of Massachusetts, who was accused by 99 people of molesting them while they were children in the 1950s and 1960s. He pleaded guilty in 1993 to molesting 28 children and was sentenced to 18 years to 20 years in prison.

Slader said the statute of limitations precludes criminal prosecution of Grammond, 79, who is retired and living in the Alzheimer's unit of a retirement center in the Portland suburb of Gresham.

But he said civil suits can be pursued for up to three years from the time a victim "discovers . . . significant injury in his life" resulting from molestation.

He said the case could go to trial in about a year if no settlement is reached.

The suit names Grammond, the archbishop and the Archdiocese of Portland and others as defendants. It alleges abuse for up to 14 years.

The archdiocese is accused, among other things, of failure to notify parishioners of Grammond's past molestations of boys, failure to monitor his activities and advise authorities, and failure to have other adults accompany Grammond on camping trips and other youth activities.

It seeks at least $4.6 million for each defendant in economic and noneconomic damages.

The archdiocese said in a statement Friday it confronted Grammond after an accusation in 1991 and that Grammond denied the claims.

"The archbishop sent him for professional assessment and suspended him of all priestly ministry," the statement said.

Slader said he had five people prepared to testify that they had advised other priests and bishops in the 1960s and the 1970s that Grammond had been molesting boys.

Most of the alleged victims were in Seaside, where Grammond spent 20 years before his retirement in 1985. Most of the others were in Oakridge.

The last accusation of abuse took place in about 1974.

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