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Knights of Columbus want sex abuse cases dismissed

Associated Press / March 16, 2011

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NEW HAVEN — The Knights of Columbus, citing a statute of limitations, asked a judge to dismiss lawsuits by two men who say a youth leader sexually abused them decades ago.

The men sued the New Haven-based group in December and said a former leader of the Columbian Squires, the official youth program of the Knights of Columbus, abused them in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s. Their lawyer has said the lawsuits appear to be the first against the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, to allege sexual abuse of children.

The Knights of Columbus filed motions Monday in US District Court in Hartford, in which they asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits. The lawsuits missed a deadline under Texas law, which allowed plaintiffs to file lawsuits within two years of turning 18, lawyers for the organization wrote.

A message was left with the plaintiffs’ lawyer.

A boy told officials of the Knights of Columbus in 1986 that he had been sexually abused by the leader, but the Knights of Columbus concealed the report of abuse and intimidated the victim into not making the abuse public, one lawsuit alleged.

The Knights of Columbus say the lawsuit fails to identify the boy who made the report, the names of the organization officials who received it, and how the organization concealed the report.

The Knights of Columbus also rejected an assertion that it was negligent in failing to prevent the abuse, saying the lawsuits failed to provide evidence the organization should have known the leader posed a risk of harm.

Patrick Korten, senior vice president for the Knights of Columbus, said in December that the organization denied the allegations. He said the organization acted quickly to remove the leader and referred the matter to police in Texas when officials first learned of the allegations in 2009.

Korten said the Knights of Columbus established a youth-protection program in 2003 that includes background checks on all youth leader applicants.

Each lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages.

One of the victims, Jim Dennany, 49, of Texas, identified himself in the lawsuit, while the other was filed as a John Doe. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Dennany’s lawyer has said he believes that using his name will help protect other children from abuse.