Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Judge orders former priest to pay $4.2 million

A former Roman Catholic priest has been ordered to pay $4.2 million for allegedly sexually assaulting a boy in the late 1980s.

Superior Court Justice Joseph Jabar ordered Raymond Melville to pay $3.2 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages to William Picher of Augusta.

Picher, 34, filed the lawsuit last February against Melville and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland claiming he was repeatedly abused by the Melville between 1986 and 1988 when he was a student at St. Mary's School in Augusta.

In his complaint, Picher said that a Maryland man wrote to the bishop in 1990 claiming he was abused when Melville was a seminarian. The diocese then sent Melville out of state for counseling, after which he returned to Maine and served in parishes in Lewiston, Rumford and Machias.

Melville, who left the priesthood in 1997, was served notice of the lawsuit while living in Oklahoma, but he never responded to the complaint. Jabar on Thursday entered an order holding Melville liable for all damages.

Another judge last month dismissed the claim against the diocese.

Picher's attorney, Walter McKee, said he intends to appeal that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Picher's suit was the second to be brought against Melville.

Michael Fortin of Sidney earlier won a $500,000 judgment against Melville. The diocese settled its case with Fortin in 2005, but terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
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