Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese to Pay Victims of Priest It Sent to Orange County
The Los Angeles Times reported today that:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee agreed Friday to pay eight California victims of a former Orange County priest $13.3 million, ending litigation against the serial child molester who leapt to his death from a hotel balcony in Mexico rather than face charges in the United States.
Combined with an earlier settlement from the Diocese of Orange, the victims of the late Father Siegfried Widera received a total of $28 million, a record $3.6 million per plaintiff.
Widera was convicted of child molestation in Milwaukee in 1973, then sent to Orange County three years later. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee failed to disclose the conviction in a letter to Orange officials, saying Widera posed "no great risk."
"Our hope, always, is to continue our progress in reaching resolution with anyone who was a victim of clergy sexual abuse," said Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan in a statement Friday. "We believe this agreement brings closure to all the cases in California and, hopefully, provides healing for victims/survivors."
One of Widera's California victims, David Guerrero, said he was molested for years beginning when he was 8 in Anaheim. He said the settlements helped him overcome drug addiction, an eating disorder and sex addiction caused by the molestation.
"It's like I got the money, but now I have to deal with all the wreckage of the past," Guerrero said.
The settlement was hailed by lawyers for the California victims, along with Milwaukee's decision to release many documents in the cases.
"It closes the book on their claims," said Katherine K. Freberg, lead lawyer for the victims. "I hope that it's a beacon of hope for other victims out there who are still fighting their legal battles."
Some 560 claims against priests in Los Angeles remain to be resolved. The first is now scheduled for trial on Nov. 18.
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