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Sex abuse claim settled against former Fort Myers priest

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Sex abuse claim settled against former Fort Myers priest

By Sara Belsole. CREATED Aug 19, 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The attorney for a Southwest Florida alleged sex abuse victim released a confidential Diocese of Venice report Tuesday detailing the investigation into the claim a Fort Myers priest molested the boy.  

The 11-page Diocese of Venice Tribunal report was kept confidential until another priest gave a copy of it to the victim.

"Their own independent investigation found that my client was telling the truth," attorney Adam Horowitz said.

In the report, the victim states Father Jean Ronald Joseph molested him in 1993 during a sleepover at Joesph's living quarters at Saint Frances Xavier Catholic Church in Fort Myers. The victim was 16 at the time.

After the victim disclosed the abuse in 2008, Father Joseph held a press conference at the Holmes Beach City Hall, publicly naming the victim and calling him a liar.

Horowitz says the press conference damaged his client's reputation in the Haitian-Catholic community.

"When he called my client a liar that carried a lot of weight in this small close-knit community," Horowitz said.

The Diocese report also notes Father Joseph had an established pattern of spending the night with males from the youth group.

"For 15 years, before 1993 and 2008, the Diocese of Venice was aware of red flags for this priest," Horowitz said.
 
Horowitz says his client, now 37-years-old, is angry the investigation took four-and-a-half years to complete and that the Diocese of Venice didn't disclose their findings to the public.
 
"There would continue to be people in the community who thought Father Joseph was a falsely accused priest," Horowitz said.
 
In a statement, the Diocese of Venice says after the 2008 allegations, "Reverend Joseph was immediately suspended, his priestly faculties removed and he was taken out of active ministry pending further investigation."
 
After the investigation, Joseph was dismissed from the diocese. He is currently appealing the decision to the Vatican.
 
The Diocese of Venice reached a six-figure settlement with the victim. 
 
 
 

 

Sara Belsole

Sara Belsole

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Sara Belsole is a video journalist for FOX 4