$11-mil­lion pay­out is or­dered in abuse case

Los Angeles Times - - The Nation - By John Spano

A New York jury or­dered the Ro­man Catholic Church on Fri­day to pay a man and a wo­man a com­bined $11.4 mil­lion for the sex­ual abuse they suf­fered as teenagers at the hands of a Long Is­land church youth min­is­ter.

The jury found the Dio­cese of Rockville Cen­tre and the parish neg­li­gent in hir­ing prac­tices and in al­low­ing the abuse — much of which took place in the parish church — from 1999 to 2002.

It was the largest jury ver­dict against the Catholic Church since a Cal­i­for­nia jury found against the Rev. Oliver O’Grady in a 1998 Stock­ton case in which Los An­ge­les Car­di­nal Roger M. Ma­hony tes­ti­fied.

In the Long Is­land case, the vic­tims were sex­u­ally as­saulted be­gin­ning when they were 15 by Matthew Maiello, who was later con­victed of rape and sodomy and served two years in prison.

The plain­tiffs were awarded $5.9 mil­lion and $5.5 mil­lion.

The crimes oc­curred in the parish church of St. Raphael in East Meadow, ac­cord­ing to Paul Mones, the lawyer for the plain­tiffs.

The Rockville Cen­tre dio­cese, the na­tion’s sixth-largest, cov­er­ing parts of Nas­sau and Suf­folk coun­ties on Long Is­land, did not com­ment Fri­day on the ver­dict.

“It was a straight ver­dict of reck­less con­duct on the part of the church,” Mones said.

The key facts con­cerned the church’s aware­ness of the threat Maiello, 33, posed to chil­dren.

Ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony, he pre­vi­ously had left a Long Is­land church af­ter ques­tions about his con­duct. But when St. Raphael’s checked be­fore hir­ing him in 1999, church of­fi­cials failed to in­quire fur­ther when they were told no pos­i­tive ref­er­ence could be given, Mones said.

The ver­dict comes less than a month be­fore the first civil dam­ages trial is sched­uled against the Arch­dio­cese of Los An­ge­les in the priest sex scan­dal.

john.spano@la­times.com

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