Diocese of Orange settles clergy abuse case for $2 million on eve of trial

Associated Press/June 26, 2012

Santa Ana, California -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange settled a clergy abuse lawsuit for $2 million on the day of trial, an attorney for the plaintiff said.

The settlement was reached at 9:30 p.m. Monday after hours of negotiations, attorney Vince Finaldi said.

It resolves a civil lawsuit filed by a 41-year-old decorated Air Force combat pilot who alleged that former Monsignor Michael Harris molested him in 1986, when he was a student at Mater Dei Catholic High School and Harris was principal there.

Harris has never been charged criminally and denies the allegations. His attorney, James Ingram, did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

He was part of a $5.2 million settlement in 2001 that the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses made with another of his accusers, a former student at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, where Harris worked after he left Mater Dei. Harris was ousted from the priesthood as a condition of that settlement, Finaldi said.

In 2004, the Diocese of Orange agreed to settle nearly 90 clergy abuse lawsuits for $100 million. Nine claims against Harris were included in that settlement and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles listed 12 accusers of Harris in a report on clergy sexual abuse that same year.

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