Archbishop wants child sex abuse lawsuits filed against him dismissed

By Krystal Paco, April 05, 2017, Kuam News

It was almost a year ago the first survivors of clergy sex abuse went public. They are former Agat altar boys Roy Quintanilla, Walter Denton, Roland Sondia, and Joseph "Sonny" Quinata who reportedly told his mother on his death bed he was sexually abused by beloved priest Archbishop Anthony Apuron.

Their stories sparked a change in local law that provided an avenue for other survivors to sue their predators. The same law is under fire by Apuron's legal counsel who this week filed her motion for dismissal in the federal court.

Defense attorney Jacqueline Terlaje is calling local law that lifts the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse unconstitutional and inorganic. She's referring to Bill 326 which passed unanimously in the 33rd Guam legislature and signed off by Governor Eddie Calvo last year.

Attorney Terlaje represents Archbishop Anthony Apuron who's a named defendant in federal complaints by Quintanilla, Denton, Sondia, and Mary Jane Quinata Cruz on behalf of the deceased Quinata. According to attorney Terlaje's motions to dismiss filed in the District Court of Guam this week, the Guam legislature "unconstitutionally impaired vested rights, opened the door to unverifiable and potentially undefendable claims, and creates a prejudicial environment for defendant Apuron's defense."

That argument is up to  the courts to decide. Former senator Frank Blas, Jr., who authored Public Law 33-187, told KUAM News, "It's quite amazing that we're going to do this in an unincorporated territory where not all of the constitution applies to us and whether or not that organic act was actually legal. So,  I think that question needs to be answered first. If it's not constitutional, does the constitution apply?"

Defense further argues Apuron is 40 years older, now an advanced age and without the benefit of witnesses who are either deceased or may be deemed incompetent due to advanced age; without the benefit of records from the 1970s to assist in his defense not only because he has no control over records, but due to the loss of records controlled by other parties over the last four decades; and he's without the benefit of memory to recall potential witnesses or the ability to locate potential witnesses due to passage of time among other arguments.

 "I believe when it comes to those who were harmed, those who were shamed, how about their rights to live a life free of fear of what had happened to them before," said Blas.

The parties are set to appear in court on May 2 for a scheduling conference. No updates were provided on Apuron's location. He was last spotted in San Francisco.

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