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Molest Suit Filed Under New Law


Jan 3, 2003 | Mercury News Attorneys for a Bay Area man who alleges that he was molested by Stephen M. Kiesle, a former priest who worked in Fremont and Union City, sued the Oakland Diocese on Thursday, using a new law that temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on decades-old abuse cases.

The lawsuit is one of hundreds of similar civil suits being prepared against the Roman Catholic Church in California now that the law which suspends the statute of limitations for one year is in effect.

Victims of clergy abuse and a network of aggressive attorneys are seizing the rare window of opportunity, hoping to encourage others to come forward.

The man who filed the lawsuit Thursday claims he was abused in 1975 and 1976 while a parishioner at St. Joseph's Church in Pinole. He wishes to remain anonymous, and the lawsuit was filed listing John Doe as the plaintiff.

The suit seeks unspecified punitive damages and reimbursement for medical expenses.

Rick Simons and David Drivon, attorneys who are handling a number of Bay Area priest abuse cases, read a statement from their client at a Pinole news conference.

``It was frightening and embarrassing when Father Kiesle molested me,'' said the victim. ``I was frozen with fear. I was not able to cope with this and could not tell anyone. I told no one for years. If I couldn't trust a priest, who could I trust?''

The man said that he still struggles with the impact of the abuse and finds it impossible to trust anyone, often viewing friends with suspicion and paranoia, the attorneys said. He has gone through counseling but regularly suffers from emotional outbursts.

``I am still living the impact of this broken trust,'' said the man's statement. ``It has not gone away. It will never go away.''

Kiesle, who lives in Pinole, has been accused of molestation by a number of victims. His attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He was arrested by Fremont police in May and charged with sexually abusing three young girls at Fremont's Santa Paula Church 30 years ago. Kiesle told Fremont detectives that he would get aroused when young children sat on his lap and that he liked blond girls.

Kiesle resigned from the priesthood shortly after Union City police arrested him in 1978 on suspicion of molesting two boys. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was placed on probation.

In August, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office charged Kiesle with two counts of performing lewd and lascivious acts on the man who filed civil charges Thursday. Kiesle pleaded not guilty to those charges and is out on $200,000 bail.

Police have also searched for human remains at Kiesle's vacation home in Truckee. Kiesle lived down the street from Amber Swartz at the time of her disappearance. No link between Kiesle and the missing girl has been found.

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