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Sex Abuse Suit Advances

Jan 24, 2003 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A lawsuit by a family who claims their dead son was molested by two priests in the 1970s can go forward even though the statute of limitations has long since expired, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge said Thursday.

The family of Miguel Chinchilla Jr. called Judge Jennifer Bailey's ruling a major victory. Chinchilla Jr., 31, died of AIDS in 1993 after years of drug abuse and promiscuous sex that his family said was triggered by the sexual abuse.

"We're elated and overjoyed at the ruling," Eugene Chinchilla, his brother, said Thursday night.

"It's a big step in the direction of final vindication, and we couldn't be happier."

His brother, Ignacio Chinchilla, said proving that Revs. Alvaro Guichard and Ricardo Castellanos sexually abused Chinchilla Jr. from age 14 to age 17 will be easier than getting over the procedural hurdles.

"The easy part is proving it," he said. "That's why they hid behind the statute of limitations for so long."

Reached at home Thursday night, Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami said, "We continue to have trust in the judicial system and we will continue to fight our case."

Castellanos, pastor of San Isidro church in Pompano Beach, and Guichard, pastor of St. Francis de Sales in Miami Beach, were placed on leave after the Chinchillas filed their lawsuit.

As proof of the priests' innocence, their lawyers and archdiocese officials have pointed to a 1989 affidavit signed by Chinchilla Jr. in which he said he "sincerely hopes that this affidavit will serve to clear [the priest's] names after the unfortunate misunderstanding which occurred, [he] believes, due to false statements made by" his psychiatrist.

Jeffrey Herman, the lawyer for the family, said Chinchilla Jr. was pressured into signing the affidavit and that it does not amount to a recanting of his story because Chinchilla Jr. never said flat-out that the sexual abuse did not occur.

In the past year, three other men have accused Castellanos of sexually abusing them in the 1970s and 80s. One of those men said Guichard molested him, too.

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