Friday, November 30, 2007

Las Cruces Diocese named in lawsuit alleging sexual abuse

In a lawsuit filed here Wednesday, a former Carlsbad resident claims he was sexually abused by a Franciscan brother while he was a teenage student and parishioner at San Jose and St. Edward Catholic churches.

The civil suit seeks unspecified damages for alleged sexual assaults by Brother Kerry Guillory during the years between 1975 and 1978, when the victim was age 13 to 17. As a result of the years of abuse, the plaintiff claims, he now suffers a host of emotional problems, including difficulty with relationships and trust.

Guillory was working with the Catholic Youth Organization in Carlsbad at the time the alleged abuse took place.

"This suit gives the victim a chance to gain back his innocence and live a life of dignity," said Kevin McGuire, an attorney for the plaintiff.

In addition to Guillory, other defendants named in the complaint include the Diocese of Las Cruces, the Diocese of El Paso, San Jose Catholic Church of Carlsbad, St. Edward Catholic Church of Carlsbad and the Province of Our Lady of Consolation.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez was said to be out of his office at the Diocese of Las Cruces and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Guillory, estimated by the plaintiff to be in his mid 60s, is now the director of the Franciscan Shelter House in Louisville, Ky. The Current-Argus was unable to reach Guillory for comment.

The victim alleges that Guillory took a special interest in him and gained his confidence by pretending to be a friend, counselor and spiritual mentor. Guillory allegedly began to isolate the teen from others on church retreats and during other church functions. These contacts grew into a further relationship where Guillory allegedly began to take the boy on trips with him and buy him alcohol and marijuana.

The suit alleges that beginning in 1977, when the plaintiff was 16 years old, Guillory took him on trips to El Paso, Dallas, Houston and other places, during which he forced the teen to share a bed with him in the hotels.

During this time, Guillory allegedly began to sexually molest and abuse the boy by hugging and kissing him. The molestation then escalated, and eventually Guillory began to sodomize the boy regularly, the lawsuit claims.

The molestation and sexual abuse were carried out numerous times for about two years and caused the teen a great deal of distress and actual physical harm, the complaint states.

Many of the acts were carried out by Guillory on the premises of San Jose and St. Edward churches and were done within full view of other priests, students, administrators and staff, the suit alleges.

The suit also alleges that while the abuse was going on, the other defendants knew about the incidents and were also aware that Guillory was sexually abusing other students at the two churches. The defendants never told church members or families in the churches in Carlsbad that Guillory had a past history of sexually abusing minors. The suit alleges that with full knowledge of Guillory's history, the church administrators in charge of Guillory actually placed him in the church youth organization, where he had contact with minors on a daily basis.

The plaintiff states that while he was attending San Jose and St. Edward, the church entities named in the suit were engaged in the practice of employing other child molesters besides Guillory. The suit states that church records show prior incidents of inappropriate sexual contact by church staff members with other victims.

The suit also alleges that the church entities attempted to hide Guillory's sexual molestations from the public and from criminal investigations, to the point that there was a policy of a "code of silence." After receiving the reports of Guillory's and others' alleged sexual misconduct, the church entities immediately implemented an elaborate scheme, which was already in place, to conceal the identities and actions of the sexual abusers, the suit states.

The suit is seeking unspecified damages for the alleged sexual battery and assault, and for various types of negligence, fraud and emotional distress.

The lawsuit was filed by McGuire and Royce Hoskins, a Roswell attorney who is serving as in-state counsel for the California law firm handling the case for the victim.

That firm -- Manly, McGuire & Stewart, of Newport Beach, Calif. — also represented victims in the recent $660 million settlement with the Los Angeles Diocese and the $198 million settlement with the San Diego Diocese.
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