A hearing involving a Bemidji woman, "Jane Doe 4," who says she was sexually abused by now-deceased Father James Porter from 1969 to 1970, began Wednesday afternoon in a Polk County Courtroom.
A hearing involving a Bemidji woman, "Jane Doe 4," who says she was sexually abused by now-deceased Father James Porter from 1969 to 1970, began Wednesday afternoon in a Polk County Courtroom. Her attorney, Jeff Anderson, was there with attorneys from his office, Sarah Odegaard and Josh Peck representing her request for monetary damages and that a private list be released with names of priests accused of sexual abuse. The original complaint came to Polk County June 20, 2013 with the victim seeking "personal injury" compensation. Porter is suspected of abusing over 100 children in multiple states, including Minnesota, Massachusetts, Texas and New Mexico.
Attorney Steven Aggergaard, representing the Diocese of Crookston, sat in for Stephen Plunkett of Bassford Remele in Minneapolis, and Susan Gaertner of Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis. Attorney for the Fall River, Massachusetts Diocese, Garth Unke, of Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Dodge & Unke, P.A. in Minneapolis was present. Over the phone, sitting in for attorney for the Servants of the Paraclete, Daniel Haws of St. Paul, was Arie Gunderman.
Judge Tamara Yon presided over Wednesday's hearing, listening to arguments made by both sides. The Diocese of Crookston moved for the dismissal of count 1, "Nuisance", after stating there was a "lack of standing." Aggergaard explained, "The Diocese would never try to discount these feelings," but went on to say it was "not traceable." Representatives of Fall River and the Paraclete also wanted their "Nuisance" count 5 and count 9 dismissed for similar reasons.
Anderson said he has no objection if the Diocese of Crookston and Fall River want to stand together to have their counts dismissed, but he would like the Servants of the Paraclete to file separately. He went on to talk about how much this victim has suffered and "continues to suffer." She does not want the same thing to happen to others or for it to be kept "secret" or private. Anderson went on to explain that, "When a priest is accused, there is a toxicity that needs to be abated. The disclosure of this will help other kids that might be at risk." He then asked, "Why is privacy interest heavily outweighed by public interest and safety?" while referring to the notion that the Diocese feels a need to protect their priest's privacy.
Unke responded by calling Anderson "passionate and eloquent" but added that he thought Anderson "was trying to get the judge's eye off the ball." Anderson responded, saying that the Diocese is trying to "keep everyone's (the public) eye off the ball." He said he wants to make sure the people know "who is still out there" and that "the children are the bigger picture."
The next hearing will be determined between Judge Yon and the attorneys at a later date.
See Friday's Times for more on the case.