Salesian order settles LA clergy sex abuse suit for $19.5M

San Jose Mercury News/May 15, 2008

Los Angeles - The Salesian Society of Catholic priests reached a $19.5 million settlement in a sexual molestation lawsuit, said an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The Salesians were the only religious order that refused to join the $660 million settlement the Los Angeles Archdiocese reached with sexual abuse victims last summer.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury had been seated Wednesday to hear claims that the Salesians knew Father Titian Miani had been accused of abusing children when they assigned him to St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower.

The settlement money will be split among 17 victims.

Miani, now 81, had been accused of molesting children in Italy and Canada before the Salesians transferred him to St. John Bosco in the 1960s, according to court documents.

At St. John Bosco, Miani befriended a family whose father had died and molested the son and two daughters while their mother was busy at work and night school, the court papers said.

Attorneys for the Salesians maintained the society did not know Miani had abused anyone before assigning him to the school.

"We recognize the pain that has been caused by this reprehensible behavior of some, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure this never happens again," Father John Itzaina of the Salesian Society said in a statement after the settlement was announced.

Raymond Boucher, the plaintiffs' attorney, said he had planned to either call Miani to the witness stand or show the jury his videotaped deposition.

"One way or the other," Boucher said, "the jurors were going to hear from Father Miani."

Miani left the order in 1974 but continued to serve as a priest until 1993, according to court documents.

A message left for an attorney for the Archdiocese, John P. McNicholas, was not returned late Wednesday.

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