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$5 Million Settlement Is Near In Paterson Clergy Sex Abuse

Feb 11, 2005 | AP

A $5 million settlement for 27 men who alleged that Roman Catholic priests in the Paterson Diocese had molested them could be completed by early next week, a person involved in the case says.

If all the plaintiffs sign on, the sum would be the largest payout by a New Jersey diocese in a clergy sex-abuse case. The deal also would provide four years of counseling for the men, said the person, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Most of the men stated they were violated as boys from 1968 to 1982 by James Hanley, who served in three North Jersey parishes. He was removed from the priesthood in 2002, 17 years after church officials learned of complaints against him.

The men sued 13 months ago, contending that church officials, including former Bishop Frank Rodimer, had failed to protect youngsters.

Hanley was not sued because he cooperated with the plaintiffs, providing a statement detailing sexual acts with boys. The statement also said Hanley had admitted to Rodimer in 1984 that he had molested about a dozen boys.

Prosecutors said they could not bring criminal charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

Hanley served at St. Joseph's in Mendham, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pompton Plains, and St. Christopher's in Parsippany.

Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli told the Star-Ledger of Newark that "my understanding is that we're moving toward a settlement." A diocesan spokeswoman did not immediately return a message yesterday.

The lawyer for 26 of the men, said: "I think that at this point it's a little too early to discuss any complete and final resolution of this matter. However, I do believe that Bishop Serratelli committed to the victims and their healing.

"The plaintiffs have requested that I not discuss the overall settlement amount. Additionally, my clients have also asked that the amounts that they each receive separately not be disclosed," he said yesterday.

One plaintiff, Kevin Kingree, said he hoped the diocese would improve its sex-abuse policies.

"It would be nearly impossible for me to say I was satisfied with how things turned out," Kingree said. Hanley abused him, he said, when he was in the seventh grade at St. Joseph's. "At the end of the day, still it's a bit unsettling."

Another plaintiff, Robert Deacon, told the Daily Record of Parsippany, "It closes a chapter, but I don't feel any great satisfaction."

Deacon, 57, of Randolph, said Msgr. Julian Verettoni had abused him decades ago at St. Mary's parish in Wharton. The statute of limitations on that allegation has also run out, and Verettoni continues to work at Sacred Heart parish in Clifton. A diocesan board last year determined Deacon had insufficient evidence to warrant action. Deacon said he had appealed that decision to Rome.

A notice that lawyers had reached a settlement was signed Feb. 1 by state Superior Court Judge Deanne M. Wilson.

Settlements in New Jersey include the Newark Archdiocese's agreement last year to split $1 million among 10 accusers. The Metuchen Diocese settled with 10 accusers for $800,000 in 2003. The Camden Diocese has settled for $955,000 with more than 20 accusers since 2002.

A record $100 million settlement of 90 lawsuits was unsealed last month between alleged victims of priest sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, Calif.

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