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Diocese Loses Bid To Seal Abuse Suit

A Catholic Priest Faces A Civil Trial In A Case Of Alleged Molestation

Oct 30, 2002 | Honolulu Star-Bulletin A Circuit Court judge has denied a request from the Roman Catholic Church to keep information sealed from the public in the civil trial of a former Navy chaplain accused of sexually molesting two altar boys.

Attorney Stephen Dyer, representing the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii, said that if documents on the Rev. Roberto DeOtero are available to the public and media, "we think it may mislead potential jurors."

Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna denied Dyer's motion yesterday to seal all discovery documents and to destroy all depositions and documents at the end of the trial.

McKenna ruled that disclosure of documents would not affect jury selection for a civil trial involving a lawsuit filed by Darick Agasiva and Fa'amoana Purcell in May.

"In my view, I don't think the concerns with respect to pretrial publicity outweighs the interest of an open public trial and case," McKenna said.

Agasiva and Purcell alleged DeOtero engaged in sexual contact with them in 1985 and 1986 while they were altar boys at St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi.

The lawsuit says DeOtero kissed the boys and touched their genitals. Both men said repressed memories emerged during national media coverage earlier this year, according to the suit.

Agasiva and Purcell are currently in their mid-20s and live and work in Hawaii.

DeOtero joined the Hawaii diocese in 1984. Three years later, he left Hawaii and later became a military chaplain.

In 1993, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo ordered DeOtero removed from public ministry because of a Navy complaint involving alleged sexual misconduct with a minor.

DeOtero currently lives in California.

Attorney David Gierlach, who represents Agasiva and Purcell, said: "The Roman Catholic Church is a significant presence in our community. And like any other large, corporate body that is brought to litigation, what it has done should not be shielded on an umbrella basis from public scrutiny. It affects too many lives."

Gierlach argued the church shouldn't be allowed to seal the information because the Honolulu Catholic Diocese has previously released personal information on DeOtero to the media.

Dyer contended that possible witnesses such as doctors, other priests and parishioners would not like their names publicized in the media.

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