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Hartford diocese found negligent in abuse case

February 10, 2012
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WATERBURY, Conn.—A jury determined Friday that the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford should pay $1 million in damages to a former altar boy who was sexually abused by a priest decades ago, ruling that the church was reckless and negligent in allowing a known pedophile to have access to children.

The decision, reported by the Hartford Courant ( http://cour.at/wlskYy), followed about three and half hours of deliberations by the Superior Court jury in Waterbury.

The victim, identified in his lawsuit as Jacob Doe, was abused by Father Ivan Ferguson in the early 1980s when Doe was 13 to 15. During the weeklong trial, he presented evidence that church officials had allowed Ferguson to have contact with children despite admitting earlier that he had sexually abused other boys.

Doe said the verdict is an important part of his healing process.

"This predator was placed in a position where he could harm me and my friend," Doe said. "I'm hoping that other victims can begin their healing process, and the church does the right thing going forward."

The victim's father, a former church deacon, said the verdict represents a new beginning for his son.

"Now he can start to heal. It's off his shoulders," Doe's father said.

Ferguson, who died in 2002, was the principal of St. Mary's grammar school in Derby when he befriended and abused Doe and Doe's best friend.

In December 2005, the archdiocese agreed to a $22 million settlement with 43 people who claim they were abused by Ferguson and 11 other priests since the 1960s.

An attorney for the archdiocese, John Sitarz, agreed with Doe's lawyers on the nature of the abuse, which he called despicable. But he argued during the trial that Ferguson was allowed to resume contact with children only after experts at a church clinic concluded he could control his sexual attraction to boys.

Sitarz had no comment on the jury's verdict.

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Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com

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