By Kay Ebeling
City of Angels Network
Jeff Anderson of Minnesota and Tony DeMarco of LA appeared in Fresno California Superior Court for an afternoon hearing today, on their Motion for New Trial in the Catholic pedophile priest civil lawsuit that went to a verdict earlier this year. In April 2009 a Fresno jury found the two altar boy brothers were indeed molested by Monsignor Anthony Herdegen, but church hierarchy in and around Fresno did not have prior notice, so plaintiffs received no financial settlement.
A source told City of Angels that the Fresno hearing Monday June 8 went on for a good hour, and that it is unusual for Judge Donald Black not to issue a tentative ruling in advance. Instead, at the end of the hearing, Judge Black took the arguments under advisement and said he would issue an order within the week.
Four attorneys appeared for the defendant Bishop of Fresno claiming the jury should have been interrupted and the trial restarted when the new witness came forward. DeMarco and Anderson say the new witness contacted them after the jury went into deliberation and there is no case law that would have allowed the judge to reopen the case at that point.
Church attorneys also argued that years ago, long before the Santillan brothers case went to trial in Fresno, defendants turned over hundreds of names of potential witnesses, other altar boys who served under Herdegen, including the name of W Doe, the new victim witness.
Plaintiffs argued they did everything possible to try to contact every lead, track down every person among the hundreds of names turned over by the diocese and from other sources. Plaintiffs say they were unable to locate every person. (Read more about the motion for retrial in June 2 story at City of Angels linked below.)
Apparently W Doe did not hear of the open window for civil lawsuits that opened for one year in California from January to December 2003 and investigators and attorneys using all the resources available did not locate W Doe in the years and months leading up to the March 2009 trial.
City of Angels will keep an eye out for the judge’s ruling this week. We were not in court Monday in Fresno, but got word from sources who attended.
Attorneys for the bishop argued that plaintiffs should have contacted Judge Black immediately when the new witness came forward. (The new witness is another former altar boy and sex abuse victim of Anthony Herdegen, so he is identified here at City of Angels as W Doe.)
W Doe tracked down Jeff Anderson after reading news stories about the March 2009 trial, realizing his testimony was critical. W Doe also says he was expelled from Catholic school after he and his mom came forward and he became disgusted with the church. He moved away from Fresno diocese area in the 1960s and has never come back.
City of Angels will try to track down motions filed by the church last week in opposition to the motion for new trial, and the motion in opposition to the opposition filed by plaintiffs on Friday June 5th.
The Santillan brothers accuse Msgr. Anthony Herdegen of sexual abuse when both brothers were altar boys, George in 1959 and Howard n the 1970s. Plaintiffs case for a new trial claims a new witness-victim came forward after the jury went into deliberations in the March-April 2009 trial. The new victim-witness testimony would result in a different verdict, plaintiffs claim.
The new victim-witness says Monsignor Herdegen also molested him, in his altar boy years, and that in 1965, he and his mother reported the sexual assaults by Herdegen to his superiors, so the church’s claim to not have had prior notice comes into question. The new witness came forward just hours after the jury began deliberating in early April 2009.
The jury in April 2009 returned a verdict confirming the Santillan brothers were raped as altar boys but the jury did not believe the Catholic hierarchy had prior notice, so the Santillan brothers were awarded $0.00 in the verdict.
A Fresno jury returned with a similar verdict in the case regarding Father Eric Swearingen, in 2006. From the Fresno Bee at bishop accountability:
The civil trial of a Fresno priest accused of molesting an altar boy nearly 20 years ago ended in a mistrial Wednesday.(December 21, 2006).
Jurors voted dozens of times on key issues, but never reached the required consensus over eight days of deliberations in Fresno County Superior Court.
In the end, the jury of seven women and five men answered two of four questions — voting 9-3 that Father Eric Swearingen had molested former altar boy Juan Rocha, but 7-5 to clear the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno of wrongdoing. A majority of nine votes was required for each question.
(Source: Fresno Bee December 2006: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/11_12/2006_12_12_Lopez_GagOrder.htm )
Compare the Fresno stories to City of Angels 4 on the jury pool in Los Angeles pretrial re the Salesians:
How many believe Catholic priests will lie under oath to cover up sex crimes? Every potential juror raised their hands
By Kay Ebeling
One of the questions was, “How many of you believe the Catholic Church has covered up sex crimes?” Every potential juror in the first day of voir dire raised their hand, in the Salesian cases which settled before going to trial this week in LA. At another point attorneys asked, how many of you think a Catholic priest will lie under oath to protect the church and, again, every one of them raised their hands. (Click title for the rest of the story.)
For background read:
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Will a Fresno judge allow a new trial re Msgr. Anthony Herdegen? Would bishops withhold evidence or lie under oath?
*By Kay Ebeling
Producer, City of Angels Network
Looking through the personnel file of Monsignor Anthony Herdegen, to me what stood out most is what was not there, in a good two thousand pages of loose sheets documenting Herdegen's 50-year career. . . (Click title to continue reading that story.)
Maybe the Santillan brothers should try to get a Change of Venue to Los Angeles for their next trial against the Bishop of Fresno for its aiding and abetting of a sexual predator pedophile priest.
Monsignor Anthony Herdegen is currently in his eighties, living in rural Wisconsin.
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