Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lawsuit: Former deacon, prominent child welfare advocate accused of child sex abuse

by: Rose French

A Virginia man claims he was sexually abused nearly 40 years ago by a former deacon and prominent Minnesota child welfare advocate, according to his attorneys.

At a news conference on Tuesday in St. Paul, attorneys for the man who lived in St. Cloud as a child plan to announce a lawsuit against the Diocese of St. Cloud and Michael Weber.

The lawsuit, to be filed in Hennepin County District Court, addresses alleged sex abuse suffered when the man was 6 years old, while he vacationed with his family at a Minnesota lake, according to a statement from St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson.

The victim, identified in the complaint as “John Doe HT," wishes to keep his identity confidential but will read a statement and answer questions by phone during the news conference.

It’s the first lawsuit to be filed against Weber, 67, since allegations emerged last month that he molested two boys around the same time he served as deacon at Church of the Holy Spirit in St. Cloud from 1969-70.

Two men, both of St. Cloud, were 11 years old at the time of the alleged abuse and reported the incidents to law enforcement authorities last month. Criminal charges are not likely because the statute of limitations has expired, authorities say.

Minneapolis attorney Francis Rondoni, who represents Weber, has said it’s “very difficult” for Weber to respond “to purported allegations that are more than 40 years old." Weber “has been a leader in the community here for many decades and has a spotless reputation. And this is very concerning to him.”

On Dec. 5, the St. Cloud diocese held a “listening session” at the church to air out the allegations and offer other potential abuse victims the opportunity to come forward.

Since the listening session was announced in mid-November, Weber has resigned from the board of the Greater Twin Cities United Way and stepped down from other prominent positions.

Four alleged victims attended the listening session (which was not open to the media) and recounted abuse by Weber, according to Jane Marrin, a spokeswoman for the diocese. A fifth purported victim was represented by someone else at the meeting and a sixth wrote a letter claiming abuse that was noted at the meeting.


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