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Diocese Pays $2 Million to Victim Forced by Fryburg Priest to Go to Confession After Sexual Abuse

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 @ 09:03 PM

Posted by Aly Delp

poulson-newERIE, Pa. (EYT) – The Erie Catholic Diocese has agreed to pay $2 million to settle claims with a man who was sexually abused as a minor by former Fryburg priest David Poulson.

(Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.)

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented the victim, announced the settlement during a press conference on Tuesday.

The victim was identified in court documents as “John Doe.”

Poulson abused “John Doe” on numerous occasions between 2002 and 2010 while he was serving at St. Michael’s Church in Fryburg, Clarion County, and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cambridge Springs, Crawford County.

Poulson, who was defrocked by the Vatican earlier this month, was sentenced in January to serve two and a half to 14 years after pleading guilty to corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.

The charges stem from the repeated sexual assaults of one boy and the attempted assault of another boy.

Court documents revealed that the victims were eight and 15 years old at the time of the crimes.

Poulson assaulted one of his victims more than 20 times in church rectories and then made the victim go to confession and confess the abuse. Abuse also occurred at a secluded hunting camp in Jefferson County.

Garabedian confirmed Tuesday that his client was one of the victims.

“The $2 million represents validation to my client that the abuse was not his fault and that he did nothing wrong,” Garabedian said.

Garabedian alleged during the news conference that the diocese was aware of allegations against Poulson prior to 2018 – when a military chaplain reported that the victim disclosed the abuse.

Garabedian pointed to a 2010 “confidential memorandum” that referenced an admission by Poulson that he had been “aroused by a boy.”

The Diocese of Erie responded to Garabedian in a statement issued Tuesday stating that Bishop Lawrence Persico was “very disappointed that Mr. Garabedian was either unaware of or chose to ignore so much information, including what was contained in the settlement agreement itself. The bishop is confident that the truth will prevail.”

The statement went on to say that “The Diocese of Erie stands behind the settlement in the interests of justice and recognizes the harms suffered by this victim” but claimed that Garabedian “repeatedly misspoke regarding the conduct of the diocese.”

“(Bishop Perisco) has expressed his disappointment and surprise at the amount of misinformation in Mr. Garabedian’s comments. He failed to take into account much information that is publicly available. If what Mr. Garabedian alleges were true and complete, then Attorney General Shapiro would have prosecuted individuals beyond David Poulson.”

“This case was thoroughly investigated under Pennsylvania law by trained law enforcement prosecutors and agents who subpoenaed documents and testimony. Per the settlement, signed by Mr. Garabedian, he was well aware that the Diocese of Erie had no knowledge of the case involving John Doe until Jan. 26, 2018 and immediately informed law enforcement and K&L Gates.”

A full copy of the statement can be read here.

Poulson was charged last May by a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury probing widespread sexual abuse by clergy against children in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, including the Diocese of Erie.

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