The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
Statement Regarding Ruling Requiring Priest to Pay Legal Costs in Defamation Lawsuit
April 19, 2005
Statement by Mary Grant of Long Beach,
We in SNAP are thankful that a judge has ordered Fr. Joe Alzugaray, an accused molester, to pay more than $120,000 in legal costs. Alzugaray filed a defamation lawsuit against our support group because we helped exposed his alleged crimes and warn parents about him.
Msgr. Joe Alzugaray was accused of child molestation in a civil lawsuit filed in 2003. Thats a fact and a fact that all parishioners and the public should be informed of to protect kids and to reveal the cover-ups of known and alleged crimes in the church.
This sends a signal to alleged perpetrators that bullying people who speak out is morally wrong, legally unethical and financially costly.
We suspect this SLAPP case was intended to destroy any support victims of abuse might find through groups like SNAP. Church leaders for too long have been allowed to isolate victims, and blame them as though the crime was their fault. Church leaders know that for many victims, reaching out to support groups may be the only way they find that they are not alone and also find the courage and strength to come forward and report the abuse.
We hope that this ruling will encourage victims of abuse to speak up, get help and report their abuse to criminal authorities.
We also hope that this judgment will discourage accused abusive priests from using hard ball legal tactics to silence and intimidate victims, many of who are still suffering in shame and isolation.
We in SNAP believe that children are safer thanks to the many brave survivors like Erin Brady, who have come forward, reported abuse and exposed their alleged abusers. More importantly, we hope that Erin Brady will be validated too knowing that she has a right to seek justice in the courts for these alleged crimes and expect to find support and comfort by meeting with other survivors of clergy sexual abuse in SNAP.
We believe that if the Church leaders like Cardinal Mahony were truly sincere in wanting to reach out and prevent abuse, they would go to each parish of suspected and known abusers and urge victims and parishioners to talk with their friends and family and ask if they have been also hurt by any alleged molesters. Instead, Cardinal Mahony re-victimizes already hurting victims by enabling known or suspected abusers by allowing them to remain in active ministry.
Through all of this, church officials have allowed Alzugaray to remain in active ministry. We are worried about the safety of youngsters around him, and hope that parents will be careful and vigilant.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Napa priest ordered to pay $120,000 in legal fees
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
By DAVID RYAN
A Napa priest is appealing a judge's order to pay more than $120,000 in legal costs after losing a lawsuit he filed against supporters of a woman who claimed he sexually molested her.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge earlier this month ordered Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray to foot the bill for the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests and Beverly Hills law firm Kiesel Boucher & Larson. Alzugaray is now the head of St. Apollinaris Church in Napa.
The cleric filed a defamation lawsuit against the two groups in February 2004 after they disseminated reports of a sex abuse lawsuit filed against him in December 2003 by Pasadena resident Erin Brady. Alzugaray also sued Brady for filing her lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In her lawsuit, Brady claimed she had recovered memories of being sexually abused as a child by Alzugaray at a Monrovia school in the late 1960s. That case is wrapped up with hundreds of other lawsuits filed against the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 2003. Those cases have stalled in the courts while the parties try to work out a settlement.
Alzugaray took an unusual step in suing his accusers.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jon Mayeda threw out both Alzugaray's cases against SNAP and the law firm in 2004. The priest's case against Brady continues because the priest hasn't dropped his defamation claim against her. Meanwhile, Brady refuses to file a motion to dismiss the case, as SNAP did, because she wants Alzugaray to prove his case in court.
Alzugaray's Los Angeles-based attorney did not return phone calls.
Tony DeMarco, a Kiesel Boucher & Larson attorney who is representing Brady in the lawsuit, said the priest was hit with the fees for filing what is called a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or a case designed primarily to silence critics.
DeMarco said the state has laws against SLAPP lawsuits and said Alzugaray faces payment of more than $120,000.
"The anti-SLAPP (law) makes attorney fees mandatory if a party is successful in an anti-SLAPP motion to strike," he said. "That whole scheme is set up to discourage exactly what Mr. Alzugaray did."
For more information:
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests