11 victims who claim Lawrence priest sexually abused them settle for $1.4M: Mitchell Garabedian

The victims were 8 to 14 years old when the abuse happened, the lawyer said

Boston Herald/August 27, 2020

By Rick Sobey

A Catholic order has agreed to pay nearly $1.4 million to 11 “courageous” clergy sexual abuse victims who claimed that a Lawrence priest abused them in the 1970s, their lawyer announced on Thursday.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who specializes in sexual abuse cases, said he settled the clergy sexual abuse claims with the Augustinian Order in February for a total amount of $1,375,000.

The 10 women and one man — now in their 50s — claimed that Father John J. Gallagher sexually abused them at St. Mary’s School in Lawrence, where they were students.

Gallagher, who died in 2006, was also previously accused of abusing three women when they were children at the Lawrence parish — which led to a $1 million settlement in 2018.

The abuse of the 11 victims happened from about 1974 to 1978 while they were about 8 to 14 years old, according to Garabedian.

The abuse happened in the gym and cafeteria areas at St. Mary’s School and the swimming pool areas of the Lawrence Reform School and the Lawrence YMCA, Garabedian said.

The Catholic priest gave at least one victim alcohol before the sexual abuse occurred, he said. Some victims were sexually abused on many occasions and for years, the lawyer said.

The priest was at times the basketball and swim coach and “used his position as a Catholic priest and coach to sexually abuse innocent children,” Garabedian said.

“The question remains as to why the supervisors of Fr. Gallagher did not protect innocent children from wholesale sexual abuse,” he said.

“It is an honor to represent these eleven courageous clergy sexual abuse victims,” Garabedian said. “By coming forward these courageous clergy sexual abuse victims have empowered themselves, other sexual abuse victims and made the world a safer place for children.”

The Augustinian Order did not respond to comment on Thursday.

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