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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Norwich Diocese, retired bishop sued in priest sex abuse case

    A 37-year-old Woodstock man who says he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by a Catholic priest while serving as an altar boy at the Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret in the 1990s has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Norwich, retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and the church.

    The Norwich Diocese previously settled two lawsuits brought by boys who were molested by the priest, Paul Hebert, when he served at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pawcatuck from 1971 to 1981.

    Hebert, who died in 2010, served at the Pomfret church from 1981 until 2004, when Bishop Michael R. Cote placed him on a leave of absence after the St. Michael incidents came to light. Hebert had also served at parishes in Old Saybrook, Montville and Clinton.

    Jonathan Roy, the alleged victim, and his wife, Melissa Roy, are represented by the Reardon Law Firm of New London, which has handled about two dozen lawsuits in priest sex abuse cases.

    While some victims choose to remain anonymous, Roy, "a quintessential macho guy" wanted to use his name to send a message that it could happen to anybody and to let other victims know that they should not be ashamed, according to attorney Kelly Reardon.

    "He wants everyone to know this happened to him, and that it if it happened to them they should come forward," Reardon said.

    Roy, whose parents were devout Catholics, was handpicked by Hebert, at age 11, to be an altar boy, according to the complaint filed earlier this month in New London Superior Court.

    The sexual assaults began after Roy went to confession with Hebert, who asked him detailed questions of a sexual nature, told him they needed to talk further and asked Roy to go to the rectory, according to Reardon.

    Over the years, Hebert plied Roy with alcohol and expensive gifts, according to Reardon.

    "He would say, 'If you don't tell anybody, I'll buy you the newest, hottest pair of sneakers,' '' she said.

    Hebert also blindfolded Roy while performing sexual acts on him, photographed and videotaped the encounters and paid Roy for certain sexual acts, according to the complaint.

    "There were a lot of pictures taken in this case and we believe there were pictures taken of other children, too," Reardon said. "We're not sure where these pictures are. It's something we are going to further investigate."

    Michael Strammiello, a spokesman for the Norwich Diocese, said Monday that he could not comment on a pending lawsuit.

    Roy is married with children and works in construction, according to Reardon. On the surface, he appears to be doing well, but he's had a lifetime of problems as a result of the abuse, she said.

    "What happened with Mr. Roy is pretty classic," she said. "A lot of times the victims spend their whole life wondering why they have problems and repressing what happened to them as a child."

    The lawsuit alleges that the Diocese and Reilly knew, or should have known, that Hebert had sexually assaulted young boys at St. Michael's and "in order to conceal this deviant conduct from the public, criminal authorities and Catholic faithful, quickly transferred him to Pomfret fifty miles away, so that his misconduct would not be discovered by the general public."

    By transferring Hebert and concealing his actions, the church officials allowed him to continue his deviant behavior for years, according to the complaint.

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

    The Reardon Law Firm has another pending case against the Diocese and other officials in which Andrew Aspinwall of New London alleges he was sexually assaulted by Charles Many, a former priest, while serving as an altar boy at the Sacred Heart Church in Groton between 1978 and 1981.

    Many would tell Aspinwall, while forcing the unwanted sexual encounters on him, "The quicker we can get this over with, the quicker you can go to your mom," according to the complaint.