Plaintiff seeks sanctions in church sexual abuse case

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2006

FAIRBANKS - A woman who is suing the Catholic church in a sexual abuse case is asking a Nome judge to impose sanctions against the Catholic Diocese and the Society of Jesus for what her attorney called dumping of evidence as the Feb. 27 trial date approaches.

A diocese attorney said the request is a ploy to distract the court.

Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa, who is representing the plaintiff, said defense attorneys submitted more than 3,000 documents from the diocese long after the disclosure deadline. He said the Jesuits continue to withhold computer files.

The plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe 2, is seeking damages against the Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska and the Jesuits for an alleged lack of oversight she contends allowed her to be abused by the Rev. James E. Poole. Nome Superior Court Judge Ben Esch has removed Poole from the civil lawsuit because the statute of limitations has passed.

In an affidavit filed Monday with the sanctions motion, Roosa said the defense e-mailed 2,300 pages of documents to his office over the weekend of Jan. 29 and another 1,196 on Feb. 3.

Roosa also said a computer expert retained by his client in January discovered 5,963 readable e-mails dating back to 2001, but the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, has only turned over about 600.

Robert Groseclose, attorney for the Fairbanks diocese, refuted the claim in a 66-page opposition filed Friday in Nome. In the filing, he called it "an eve-of-trial effort to distract the court and the parties with what is the plaintiff's self-inflicted failure to review, manage or otherwise follow up on the production made months before."

The diocese has "gone overboard" in providing more than 4,000 pages of documents, Groseclose said in an interview. He called the documents "minutiae" that have no relevance to the complaint.

Roosa said a preliminary review of the documents showed them to be relevant. He also said that information gleaned from letters and memorandums shows that the diocese had knowledge of Poole's sexual abuse against another girl as early as 1969.

The Rev. John Whitney, provincial of the Oregon Jesuit province, agreed with Groseclose's assessment.

"I don't think this motion is going to be approved; it is another distraction," he said.

The process of researching and providing computer information is new to the province, according to Whitney.

"We tried to produce as much as we could. We didn't think there would be anything relevant to the case since the case was before we had the e-mail system," he said. "If it was an error on our part it was not intentional."

Jane Doe 2 is the third woman from western Alaska to allege sexual abuse by Poole.

Elsie Boudreau settled with the defendants for $1 million after filing a claim. Patricia Hess, who did not file a lawsuit, negotiated a settlement for an undisclosed sum.

Three other women, Jane Does 3, 4 and 5, have filed lawsuits since.

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