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Diocese, Newspaper Square Off

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

By Richard Nangle
Telegram & Gazette Staff

The Worcester Catholic Diocese is opposing a Worcester Telegram & Gazette effort to prevent reporter Kathleen A. Shaw from being deposed in a civil suit charging Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger with sexual assault.

The diocese subpoenaed Ms. Shaw in connection with her coverage of a lawsuit filed by Sime Braio of Shrewsbury.

The diocese, represented by lawyer James Gavin Reardon Jr. of Worcester, argues that Massachusetts law does not protect Ms. Shaw from having to testify and turn over her notes.

“The T&G and Ms. Shaw have not shown any real possibility of harm from her testimony and, in any event, the defendants and the public have not only a need for, but a right to Ms. Shaw's evidence, which right outweighs any harm to Ms. Shaw's interests that could result,” the motion states.

The Telegram & Gazette, through Worcester lawyer David M. Ianelli of Bowditch & Dewey, argues that Massachusetts courts have held that a reporter should not be compelled to testify unless the value of the testimony “outweighs the inevitable interference with the functioning of the free press.

“Requiring Ms. Shaw's testimony would also infringe upon her right to protect confidential, unpublished information and would unnecessarily intrude upon the editorial process.”

The subpoena directs Ms. Shaw to bring with her “any and all correspondence, notes, memoranda, photographs, charts, drawings and any and all materials” in her possession regarding Mr. Braio, Bishop Rueger, lawyer Daniel J. Shea of Houston and the allegations made against the auxiliary bishop.

The newspaper has challenged the subpoena, which Editor Harry T. Whitin has called a “fishing expedition.”

Earlier this month, the diocese deposed James J. Gribouski, a Worcester lawyer who once represented Mr. Braio but declined to file suit against Bishop Rueger on his behalf. Mr. Gribouski made that decision after receiving a letter from a psychiatrist who evaluated Mr. Braio and concluded that his symptoms could not be related to sexual abuse.

Ms. Shaw has interviewed the alleged victim and written several news accounts of the lawsuit, filed on Mr. Braio's behalf in July by Mr. Shea.

“The T&G asserts that Ms. Shaw has a statutory privilege to refuse to testify,” the motion states. “Massachusetts has not enacted any 'press shield' statute. Furthermore, the Supreme Judicial Court, when petitioned to adopt press shield rules, specifically declined to do so.”

It further states, “Regardless of the order in which the defendants choose to conduct discovery, they have an absolute right to depose Ms. Shaw for the purpose of seeking evidence to impeach Sime Braio. The law does not support the T&G's assertion that the defendant has to take depositions of other witnesses first.”

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday at Worcester Superior Court.

Mr. Braio's lawsuit alleges that Bishop Rueger, then a parish priest, began sexually molesting him in the early 1960s when he was 13. The suit alleges that the abuse resulted in behavior that landed Mr. Braio, now 52, in the former Lyman School for Boys in Westboro.

The diocese has said its own investigation cleared Bishop Rueger of any wrongdoing. Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte said his office and state police investigators could not substantiate the charges.

The diocese claims that on at least three occasions, Mr. Braio attempted to extort up to $10,000 from church officials in exchange for his silence on the matter. Mr. Conte's office is investigating the diocese's accusations of extortion attempts.

Monsignor Thomas J. Sullivan in July said an unnamed local lawyer relayed an attempt by Mr. Braio to extort money from the diocese.

“In addition, another attempt at extortion came through a local attorney, who no longer represents Mr. Braio,” Monsignor Sullivan said in a statement at the time. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly had said the diocese might pursue criminal extortion charges against Mr. Braio.
Monsignor Sullivan acknowledges meeting with Mr. Braio on May 10, “in my capacity as a member of the Initial Review Committee of the Diocesan Pastoral Care Committee, and in an attempt to reach out to a possible victim.” That meeting happened after Mr. Gribouski dropped Mr. Braio as a client and before Mr. Braio hired Mr. Shea.

In a deposition taken in September by Mr. Shea, a neighbor who lives downstairs from Mr. Braio said he overheard Mr. Braio's end of a telephone conversation with the diocese in February. The neighbor, Glen Alexander, claimed Mr. Braio did not discuss a cash settlement with the diocese. He also said a man who appeared to be a priest visited Mr. Braio in May and offered him a monetary settlement.

Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests