$11-million payout is ordered in abuse case
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.