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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2008

For More Information:
Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee), 414.429.7259 (cell)
Alice Hodek, SNAP Green Bay, 920.497.0795
Judith Schauer, SNAP Green Bay, 920.445.6655
Mary Geuntner, SNAP Wisconsin, 414.418.3191
Commander Whitwell is represented by DE Atty Stephen Neuberger, 302.655.0582

Norbertine Provincial, Green Bay Bishop should turn molester priest over to authorities

Fr. Edward Smith, removed from ministry, found guilty by a jury in federal civil sex abuse trial in 2007

 According to trial transcript and published accounts, Smith sexually assaulted victim at Abbey

Delaware diocese settled with victim, now a Navy Commander, last week

 Moved back and forth between Wisconsin and Delaware priest, victims believe, can still be prosecuted

WHAT
Victims of sexual abuse by clergy and family members will hand deliver a letter to Abbot Gary Neville, Provincial of the Norbertine religious order, urging him to immediately turn over to authorities Fr. Edward.

Smith, who was found guilty in a civil suit in federal court in Delaware in 2007 of sexually assaulting US Navy Commander Ken Whitwell, now 39 years old, when Whitwell was a youngster in the 1980’s.  According to the trial transcripts, Smith assaulted Commander Whitwell for several years, including during a four day trip to the Norbertine Abbey.  Because the Wisconsin criminal statute “tolls” if an offender leaves the state, Smith’s sexual attacks on Whitwell in Wisconsin can still be prosecuted. 


SNAP will also deliver the transcripts of the Delaware federal trial with the request to launch an immediate criminal investigation to Brown County District Attorney, John Zakowski.

WHEN
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 1:30 p.m.

WHERE
Norbertine Provincial Headquarters, 1016 N. Broadway, DePere, WI

WHO
Wisconsin and Green Bay leaders of the national self help group, SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including SNAP’s long time Midwest Director.

WHY
In March of 2007, in a landmark federal trial in Delaware, a jury found Norbertine priest Fr. Edward Smith guilty of sexually assaulting Commander Ken Whitwell when he was a youngster for well over a three year period.  The sexual abuse began in December 1982 when Commander Whitwell was a high school freshman at Archmere Academy, a Norbertine High School in Claymont, Delaware.  The attacks eventually ended in August/September 1985 at the beginning of Whitwell’s senior year. 

The Wisconsin abuse occurred during a four day trip to St. Norbert’s College.

Because Wisconsin law “freezes” or “tolls” if a child sex offender leaves the state, Smith’s case should be prosecutable. 

The Norbertines and the Green Bay diocese are well familiar with Wisconsin’s tolling provision since diocesan priest Fr. Donald Buzanowski and Norbertine priest Fr. James Stein were both successfully prosecuted in Brown County by means of this provision in 2004.   Also, as in the Buzinowski case, Commander Whitwell serves in the armed forces.  Federal law allows years of service in the military to “toll” on criminal acts.  For example, if the victim was in the military for four years, four years are taken off the statute of limitations on the crime committed against him.  

It is believed that Smith was transferred back and forth at various times by the Norbertines from Delaware to Wisconsin. 
SNAP has been urging the diocese of Green Bay for the past three weeks to release the names, settlement locations, and case files of 51 clergy they have acknowledge have abused children over the past several decades.

Repeatedly in public interviews and written statements, the diocese of Green Bay has claimed it has turned over all information concerning sex abuse occurring in the diocese to the Brown County DA.

***

Archmere Grad Gets $41 Million in Abuse Suit
Damages Thought to Be First in Del. Priest Sex Case

By Beth Miller
News Journal
March 31, 2007

http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070331/NEWS/703310338/-1/NEWS01

Wilmington — A U.S. District Court jury Friday awarded $41 million in damages to an Archmere Academy graduate who testified he was sexually abused hundreds of times by a faculty priest at the prestigious Catholic school.

The jury award — which includes $6 million in compensatory damages and $35 million in punitive damages — is believed to be the first made to a victim of child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Delaware. The only defendant in the case was the Rev. Edward J. Smith; the school, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and Smith's Norbertine order were dismissed from the suit months ago.

Navy Cmdr. Kenneth J. Whitwell, 39, of Stafford, Va., a 1986 graduate of Archmere, told jurors Thursday that he was orally and anally raped by Smith, a Norbertine priest, more than 230 times over the course of 33 months. The abuse started, Whitwell said, when he was a 14-year-old freshman at the school.

Navy Cmdr. Kenneth J. Whitwell, 39, of Stafford, Va., a graduate of Archmere, said he was raped more than 230 times over the course of 33 months

Smith, who now lives at the Norbertine priory in Middletown, was not present in court and offered no defense to the civil lawsuit. Neither he nor the superior of the Norbertine order, the Rev. James Bagnato, returned phone messages Friday.

Whitwell covered his face in his hands and wiped tears away when the final verdict was read Friday. After court was dismissed, he turned and embraced his wife, Amy, and they wept together.

"The jury spoke out very loudly that all Delaware officials must do everything in their power to hold these persons accountable for their past crimes," Whitwell said at a news conference later. "I want to thank the judge and jury for allowing me to expose the truth about matters which have been hidden away for far too long, and for seeing that justice was done not only for me, but also for all the many other victims who have been denied their day in court by armies of lawyers and church bureaucrats who are more interested in a cover-up than in protecting innocent children and revealing the truth of what happens behind closed doors in their church."

The Rev. Edward J. Smith, shown in this undated photograph, was not present in court and offered no defense

Following the money

In testimony Thursday, Whitwell and his mother, Joyce Casey, testified that Smith had told them of a large inheritance that his father had protected for him so that church officials would have no claim on his riches. They testified that Smith provided many costly gifts, always had large amounts of cash on him, tried to give Whitwell a car for his 16th birthday and offered to pay the boy's tuition at Archmere if financial needs overwhelmed the family.

"We expect we will collect every penny that he has hidden away," said Thomas Neuberger, who with his son, Stephen, represented Whitwell and has several other such cases pending in Delaware courts. "And after our appeal, when we succeed in taking Archmere and the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington back into the case, we expect a similar award when we retry the case."

One legal expert doubted Whitwell will see the full amount. If there is no insurance or property that can be leveraged to pay the award, defendants in this type of case can either appeal the award or declare bankruptcy.

"In my experience, unless there's insurance coverage, an award like this probably would never be paid to the plaintiff," said Joe Weik, past president of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association. Weik said Smith's absence could have contributed to the size of the jury's award.

Statute of limitations

The suit was filed in federal court to leverage the Vermont statute of limitations, which allows plaintiffs six years after they discover the cause of their injury to file suit in sexual-abuse cases. Delaware's civil statute, now under review in the General Assembly, is two years.

Whitwell testified that Smith abused him on two separate ski trips to Killington, Vt. Whitwell said his memory of the abuse was triggered during an argument with his wife in 2000, and he did not link his personal problems with the abuse until he was under treatment with a Navy psychiatrist in 2003.

Chief Judge Sue L. Robinson had dismissed Archmere, the diocese and Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli from the suit, saying they had no part in the Vermont matter and that the Delaware statute would apply in their cases.

Archmere school officials issued a statement late Friday: "Archmere hopes that the trial and the jury's verdict lend some measure of comfort to Kenneth Whitwell and his family, as well as sending a clear message that sexual abuse of any child can never be tolerated."

Long-term impact of abuse

Jurors heard expert opinion Friday from Dr. Carol Tavani, a neuropsychiatrist, who said Whitwell was permanently injured by the abuse and would need intensive treatment to have a chance at improving the quality of his life and marriage.

"These things leave scars — they're pervasive," Tavani told the jury. "It's not that they [victims] don't go on to have a life, but it colors the way you look at the world. ... It affects your relationships, especially your close relationships, and affects your ability to trust anybody."

Tavani, who does more than 2,000 consultations a year at Christiana and Riverside hospitals and founded the Psychiatric Consultation Service 25 years ago, said Whitwell's problems with anxiety, mood disorders, fears, nightmares, severe stress levels, and personal intimacy were caused by the abuse.

Tom Neuberger urged the jury to provide justice for Whitwell and protection for children of other predators with a "colossal" award.

He acknowledged the difficulty of placing a dollar value on the damage done by sexual abuse that Whitwell estimated happened 234 times, a "conservative" guess. "What is one sodomization of a 14-year-old worth? Your mind recoils at it," Neuberger said, "but it's your duty to face it. Two hundred thirty four separate horrible wrongs."

Worse, Neuberger said, Smith explained his behavior to Whitwell in spiritual terms, saying such activity was a natural way of expressing God's love.

'They'll take notice'

Neuberger urged jurors to send an especially strong message in punitive damages: "Without a colossal award, the Smiths and enablers, who blow you off when you confront them — the Norbertines and Archmeres of the world — won't take notice. Make the award enormous enough that they'll take notice."

Whitwell testified Thursday that he was sexually abused by Smith in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Vermont. He also testified that other priests from the school, the headmaster and dean of students saw him emerge from Smith's bedroom at the Archmere priests' residence but neither challenged the behavior nor warned his mother of any concern. Whitwell said he drank with priests during happy hours at the residence.

Smith was on the Archmere faculty from 1982-84 and banned from the school's campus in 2002, officials say, when allegations of abuse at a Philadelphia school were reported by the news media.

Whitwell said pursuing the suit was "the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my entire life." And, he said, it is not over. "I quietly and fairly asked for justice from those who enabled these crimes, but I was ignored and belittled," Whitwell said. "So I will march on until all the wrongs done to me and countless others are made right. It is a glorious day when the American justice system works, a glorious day when a wrong can be righted."

Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or bmiller@delawareonline.com.

***

http://www.navytimes.com/news/2008/01/ap_church_abuse_080118/

Navy doctor settles abuse suit with diocese

By Randall Chase - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 21, 2008 8:06:42 EST

DOVER, Del. — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has agreed to settle a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by a Navy doctor for $450,000, attorneys said Friday.

The settlement with Cmdr. Kenneth Whitwell was announced moments before a judge heard arguments in a lawsuit against church officials, including arguments on the constitutionality of a new state law that allows victims previously barred from the statute of limitations to seek damages for past abuse.

In March, Whitwell was awarded $41 million in damages by a federal jury after alleging that he was raped by the Rev. Edward J. Smith. A judge awarded Whitwell a default judgment after Smith, a former religion teacher at Archmere Academy in Wilmington, failed to respond to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Smith began working at Archmere two years after he was removed as principal at St. John Neumann High School in Philadelphia amid allegations of sexually abusing children there.

“The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington expresses its deep sorrow for the abuse suffered by Cmdr. Whitwell and also for the suffering of Cmdr. Whitwell’s parents as a result of the abuse of their son,” the diocese said in a statement.

“Sexual abuse of children is a reprehensible betrayal of trust, and it is particularly horrible when inflicted by a priest,” the statement added. “The Catholic Diocese renews its promise to continue to do its utmost to ensure that our children are protected and in no way suffer the abuse that the young Kenneth Whitwell suffered.”

Whitwell, who claims he was repeatedly molested by Smith while attending Archmere and that church officials did nothing to protect him, expressed his gratitude to Bishop Michael Saltarelli for the settlement.

“I am grateful for the bishop’s actions as another step in my personal healing process and another step on my journey to justice,” said Whitwell, 39, a Navy optometrist based in Quantico, Va. “I hope and pray that the bishop’s actions offer some comfort and healing to others in Delaware whose lives and faith have been affected by these horrible crimes.”

Whitwell’s attorney, Thomas Neuberger, said the diocese and Saltarelli decided not to follow “the scorched-Earth, blame-the-victim policy taken by other dioceses and religious orders across the country” and seem willing to work in good faith with victims of sexual abuse.

“Today’s settlement is evidence of that fact,” he said.

Anthony Flynn, an attorney for the diocese, said the settlement with Whitwell was the first since passage of Delaware’s Child Victims Act last year.

While Smith is a member of the Norbertine order and not a diocesan priest, Flynn said the diocese “feels that it has a moral obligation to him.”

The settlement signals that the diocese takes lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests very seriously, Flynn added.

“It’s to set a tone as to how we’re going to approach resolving, trying to resolve, these cases,” he said.

Whitwell’s federal lawsuit was based on sexual abuse by Smith during two weekend ski trips to Vermont because Delaware’s statute of limitations prevented Whitwell from suing for abuse that occurred here.

In August, Whitwell filed a lawsuit in state court alleging more than 200 acts of abuse in Delaware and other states. The lawsuit takes advantage of the new law, which abolished a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits for victims of child sex abuse and allows a two-year “lookback” period during which lawsuits previously barred by the statute of limitations can be brought anew.

On Friday, attorneys for the defendants asked Superior Court Judge Robert Young to rule on several motions.

Attorneys for the Wisconsin-based national headquarters of Smith’s religious order argued that the court’s jurisdiction in the case doesn’t extend to the Wisconsin group.

An attorney for Archmere said Whitwell should not be allowed to sue in state court after successfully suing Smith in federal court, even though liability in the federal case was limited to acts of abuse in Vermont, and the school was dismissed as a defendant.

Attorneys representing Norbertine orders in Delaware and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, argued that the retroactive provision in the new law allowing the filing of previously time-barred lawsuits is unconstitutional.

Young, who set a trial date of Jan. 26, 2009, is expected to rule on the motions within a few weeks.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org