Plaintiff in Seattle church abuse trial settles

Associated Press/May 20, 2009

A man suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle settled his case hours after tearfully recounting how he thought he was the only boy being abused by a priest.

The Seattle Times and both reported the 44-year-old suburban Auburn man settled for $700,000 late Tuesday, a day after his co-plaintiff settled for about $600,000. Two other plaintiffs settled before the trial began.

The man wept as he testified earlier Tuesday in the King County Superior Court trial about the abuse he said he suffered as an eighth grader in the late 1970s when Patrick O'Donnell was a priest at his Seattle parish.

"I thought I was the only one that was being abused," he said, crying. "I didn't know there were others."

O'Donnell has admitted abusing at least 30 boys.

This has been the first lawsuit against the Seattle archdiocese over priest sex abuse to go to trial. Lawyers for the archdiocese say more than 200 claims involving a number of priests have been settled and fewer than 20 pend.

At issue was whether former Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who testified Monday, and other archdiocesan officials knew or should have known that O'Donnell molested boys repeatedly before he was abruptly sent to Seattle from Spokane, and whether he was monitored sufficiently before he returned to Spokane.

The Auburn man "felt really good that he got to tell his story — that was the most important thing," his lawyer Timothy Kosnoff said.

The retired archbishop, now 87, testified that his close friend of about 50 years and former college teacher and mentor, the late Spokane Bishop Bernard J. Topel, never told him O'Donnell was a serial child abuser.

He and other church leaders in Seattle have testified they thought the priest was in Seattle in 1976-78 to attend the University of Washington, which he did, earning a Ph.D. in education. But O'Donnell was also sent for sexual deviancy treatment.

Kosnoff told The Times that part of the reason his client settled involved questions raised by some jurors after the man's testimony Tuesday, when he said he had been abused by O'Donnell in Seattle, and then went to visit the priest in Spokane, where he was abused again.

"In honesty, we were influenced by those four jurors who asked these questions about why he went back," Kosnoff said. "I don't want to call it blaming the victim, but it definitely signaled to us that jurors had questions about that and we had to take that into account."

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