New London man to receive $900,000 in priest molestation case settlement

A now 50-year-old New London man who said he was sexually assaulted by a priest at the Sacred Heart church in Groton while serving as an altar boy in the late 1970s and early '80s has settled a lawsuit against church officials for $900,000.

Andrew Aspinwall had sued the Society of St. Edmund, a Catholic order headquartered in Colchester, Vt.; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich; the diocese's former bishop, Daniel J. Reilly; and the Sacred Heart church. The case was scheduled for jury selection in Superior Court on Jan. 3, but was settled during mediation with Judge Terence A. Zemetis. 

Aspinwall's attorney, Kelly E. Reardon, said she had identified a number of other individuals who were molested by the priest, Charles Many, and who were prepared to tell the jury about their experiences and the fact that they had told other priests in the parish what occurred "on many occasions." Many was removed from parish service in 1986 and later left the priesthood after allegations of molestation surfaced against him in Vermont.

Reardon said she had obtained documents from the Edmundite archives demonstrating that officials from the church had knowledge that then-Father Many was "receiving boys in his room" as early as 1976, two years before he was transferred to the parish in Groton.

Representatives of the Society of St. Edmund and the Norwich diocese could not be reached for comment.

"The settlement of this case will allow my client to begin the healing process of putting this nightmare behind him," Reardon said. "I am pleased that our firm was able to give him a sense of vindication and to ensure that others who have been harmed will not be afraid to come forward."

Reardon said Aspinwall, a retired correction officer, is a strong person with a supportive family and partner who have helped him cope with the struggles he faced as a result of his experience. 

The Reardon Law Firm has represented several clients in priest molestation cases. The case of a Woodstock man who says he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by Father Paul Hebert while serving as an altar boy at the Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret in the 1990s is pending. Reardon said the firm has a newer case and is likely to file a lawsuit in the future.  

Under Connecticut law, victims have until age 48, or 30 years beyond the age of majority, to bring civil lawsuits in sexual assault cases.

k.florin@theday.com

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