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SR Diocese Facing New Molest Suit

37-year-old man claims abuse by ex-priest Gary Timmons started in late 1970s


A 37-year-old man is suing Santa Rosa's Catholic Diocese, claiming he was molested by a now-defrocked priest during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court is the latest in a string of legal actions naming Gary Timmons, a former priest who spent four years in prison for molesting boys.

The newest plaintiff, Joseph Canada, said Timmons molested him at a youth retreat, on a camping trip and at a church rectory in Rohnert Park.

Canada was between 11 and 15 years old at the time, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit brought by Walnut Creek attorney Michael Meadows seeks unspecified damages. Meadows has handled cases for about a dozen other men who said they were molested by Timmons in similar circumstances.

Neither diocesan officials nor their attorney, Dan Galvin, could be reached for comment. Meadows also didn't respond to inquiries, and the lawsuit doesn't say where Canada is now living.

In July, two other men sued the diocese, claiming they too were molested by Timmons as teenagers.

The church has paid at least $7.4 million to settle sex abuse claims involving Timmons and other priests filed since 1994.

Six new claims have been filed this year against the Santa Rosa Diocese under a state law that suspended the statute of limitations on such civil lawsuits for one year.

Canada's lawsuit claims he was molested by Timmons between 1977 and 1981, while Timmons was director of religious education and youth ministry for the diocese.

Canada came from a devout Catholic family, took part in church youth activities and "developed great admiration, trust, reverence and respect" for Timmons, according to the lawsuit.

In 1977, the suit says, Canada attended the church's Camp St. Michael in Mendocino County, where Timmons supervised his group.

The lawsuit alleges Timmons told Canada to sleep next to him and the priest fondled him during the night. Canada was "horrified and embarrassed," but was afraid to say anything, according to the suit.

A similar incident occurred on a church-sponsored camping trip in 1978, Canada said.

In 1981, when Timmons was pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Rohnert Park, Canada went on a church outing to the Sonoma Coast. After the trip, Timmons told him to take a shower at the church's rectory in Rohnert Park, according to Canada.

Timmons molested him after he got out of the shower, the lawsuit alleges.

Canada thought he'd be punished if he told anyone about the incidents and so he didn't reveal the molestations for many years, according to the suit.

The lawsuit says the Santa Rosa Diocese knew Timmons was molesting children but didn't do anything to stop him.

An early mediation conference in the case is set for March 3.

In a separate lawsuit filed earlier this year, an unnamed 43-year-old Eureka man alleged he was molested by Timmons and former priest Don Kimball between the ages of 9 and 14.

And in another claim, an unidentified 49-year-old Sacramento man said he was molested by Timmons between the ages of 12 and 14.

Those cases are pending.

Kimball was sentenced to seven years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl at a church rectory in Healdsburg in 1981, but his conviction was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the California law prosecutors used to convict him.

The church paid $1.6 million in 2000 to settle a lawsuit accusing Kimball of sexual misconduct with juveniles while he was a priest in Santa Rosa in the 1970s.

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