Norwich Diocese pays $900,000 to settle sex abuse lawsuit

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The Diocese of Norwich has agreed to pay a $900,000 settlement to a Woodstock man who said he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by the late Rev. Paul Hebert at Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret in the 1990s.

The settlement with Jonathan Roy, which was announced Wednesday by his attorney Kelly Reardon of New London, brings the total of settlements that the diocese has paid to alleged victims of clergy sex abuse to $9.5 million, according to the diocese and lawyers for the victims. Roy filed his lawsuit against the diocese and former Bishop Daniel Reilly in 2016.

The Norwich Diocese previously settled two lawsuits, one for $170,000, brought by two boys who say they were molested by Hebert when he served at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pawcatuck from 1971 to 1981.

The diocese released a statement Wednesday that said, "We hope that the recent settlement reached in the case of allegations concerning late Father Paul Hebert brings closure to the parties involved."

The diocese and Reilly still face 22 lawsuits filed by young men who say they were fondled, sodomized and raped by two Christian Brothers while attending Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River from 1986 to 1996. Reilly served as the president of the school’s board of trustees during the period of the alleged assaults.

Reardon, whose firm has handled numerous sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese, said Roy is doing well now, thanks to his wife, a strong support system and mental health assistance.

"He's very happy with the settlement. He's especially happy to have this chapter of his life over with," Reardon said about Roy.

She said that the diocese and its lawyers were reasonable to work with in coming to a settlement. She credited Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati with helping the two parties “over the finish line.” The lawsuit had been slated to go to trial earlier this winter.

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 also had served at parishes in Old Saybrook, Montville and Clinton. His name appeared on the list the diocese released last month of 43 priests who have served in the diocese since its founding in 1953 and have had “allegations of substance” made against them regarding the sexual abuse of minors.

Roy, whose parents were devout Catholics, was handpicked by Hebert, at age 11, to be an altar boy, according to the lawsuit.

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

“He would say, ‘If you don’t tell anybody, I’ll buy you the newest, hottest pair of sneakers,’" Reardon said in a 2016 interview.

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.

The lawsuit alleged 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. Since 1971, state law required clergy members to report suspected child abuse, but the statute of limitations for prosecuting those who fail to report is one year.       

Connecticut lawmakers are considering introducing a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to file lawsuits. The current criminal statute of limitations for minor victims is up to the victim's 48th birthday or five years from when the victim notified police of the crime, whichever is shorter. It is expected that eliminating the statute of limitations would result in more victims filing suits against the diocese.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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