Woman settles Nome clergy abuse case

Daily News-Miner/March 3, 2005
By Mary Beth Smetzer

A settlement in the $1 million range has been reached in a child sexual abuse case against Father Jim Poole--who founded radio station KNOM in Nome--as well as the Fairbanks Catholic Diocese and the Society of Jesus Oregon Province said Ken Roosa, the attorney for Elsie Boudreau, formerly identified as Jane Doe 1.

Monday, lawyers on both sides of the case signed off on a binding agreement for a settlement that is still being worked out, Roosa said.

"We're working on it. I don't know anything more than that," Roosa said. "All we've got to be is be patient."

Boudreau claims Poole sexually abused her repeatedly from the time she was 10 until she was 16 years old.

A year ago this month, Boudreau sued Poole, a Jesuit who worked 40 years in Alaska.

Boudreau accused Poole of kissing and fondling her dozens of times, starting in 1978, during summer visits to Nome, and continuing until she was 16. The abuse included heavy petting and having her lie on top of him, the lawsuit stated.

Poole, 82, now living in a Jesuit retirement community in Spokane, Wash., first arrived in Alaska in 1948 as a seminarian. He was assigned to Holy Cross, Pilot Station, Marshall, Mountain Village, St. Marys, Barrow and Nome.

In a recent interview, Boudreau said she decided to report Poole during the summer of 2003 when her own child was turning 10, the age she was when Poole began abusing her. Boudreau said she only decided to file suit after getting an inadequate response from the church hierarchy.

Boudreau, a Yupik woman in her mid-30s with a master's degree, said Wednesday that she decided to reveal her identity so that people could see that she is a real person and perhaps come forward with their own stories.

"Just getting to the settlement doesn't mean it is over in terms of healing. There's other work that needs to be done. It's not over," Boudreau said.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Roosa said Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler will help Boudreau acquire a licensed use or long-term easement on the Andreafsky River near St. Marys, where she wants to build a memorial to the children who lost their innocence to sexual abuse by priests and clerics. She envisions it as a contemplative, quiet setting, Roosa said.

Ronnie Rosenberg, human resources director for the Fairbanks Diocese and a retired attorney, confirmed that the diocese is anticipating finalizing a settlement in the Jane Doe 1 lawsuit shortly.

In December, Patricia Hess of Anchorage, who alleged she suffered abuse at the hands of Poole, reached a monetary settlement with the Fairbanks Diocese and the Society of Jesus Oregon Province, without filing a lawsuit.

A second lawsuit against Poole, filed in Bethel Superior Court last June by Jane Doe 2, also alleges sexual abuse by Poole over an eight-year period beginning when she was age 12. The complaint states that Poole impregnated Jane Doe 2 at age 14, and told her to "get rid of the baby" and blame the pregnancy on her father.

That lawsuit is still pending, and is not actively being negotiated at the present time, Rosenberg said.

"We would like to get all these cases settled, if we could come to a meeting of the minds," Rosenberg said, referencing more than 50 unsettled complaints filed against four other Catholic priests and a brother that remain unresolved.

How the mounting monetary settlements will affect the financial health of the missionary diocese hasn't yet been determined.

"Obviously, the bishop is needing to strike a fair balance between people who may have been injured decades ago, and the current needs that the diocese serves today," Rosenberg said.

"We would urge people again to come forward. We all abhor the crime of sexual abuse against children and would like to do anything possible to root it out and to heal people who have been affected by it," Rosenberg said.

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