The sexual abuse
case was settled and Roman Catholic bishop Tod Brown
could have walked away without ever saying a thing about it
But an attempt to
clear his name of allegations that he had helped a
high-ranking church official avoid testifying has made Brown
the first U.S. bishop who could face jail time in the
church sex abuse scandal.
A judge began
criminal contempt-of-court proceedings against Brown on
Tuesday, just three days after he agreed to pay nearly $7
million to settle the lawsuits that led to contempt
allegations surrounding Brown's decision to send the
church official to Canada.
hearing, plaintiffs' lawyers said they expected the judge to
dismiss the contempt filing because the case had been
settled. But diocese of Orange County,
Calif., attorney Peter Callahan insisted the
proceedings go forward to clear the bishop's name, and Judge
Gail Andler took him up on the offer.
Brown waived his
arraignment, which lawyers said was the equivalent of a
not guilty plea.
''This is one
more example of the diocese stepping in their own mess,''
said John Manly, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case.
''Now we can have our cake and eat it too.''
attorneys had accused Brown of sending Msgr. John Urell to
Ontario, Canada, for medical treatment before he could
complete a deposition in one of four cases settled
Friday. The monsignor was responsible for handling
sexual abuse allegations against the diocese.
in a pretrial deposition that he made the decision to
send Urell to the Southdown Institute, although he knew
Urell ''had given a deposition and was going to be
called back for further deposition.''
He said Tuesday
the facility is one of only a few that specializes in
psychological care for clergy and that it was able
to take Urell immediately.
attorneys to deliver their opening statements in the
contempt case before postponing the rest of the hearing
until December 3. She said a subpoena for Urell's
testimony would remain in effect until that date.
argue at the hearing to dismiss the contempt matter.
Venus Soltan, a
plaintiffs' attorney, said Brown sent Urell away to
suppress critical evidence about the diocese's handling of
sexual abuse. Urell went away a week after he broke
down during his deposition by plaintiffs' attorneys.
Urell was there for half a day, he couldn't take it because
he was too upset about having to testify about hiding all
these allegations,'' she said in court. ''This is
plain and simply hiding the facts.''
however, said there was no evidence that a court order was
in effect when Brown sent Urell away and asserted that
a plaintiffs' attorney had verged on perjury in the
court filings that precipitated the contempt hearing.
nothing about the current case, which involved allegations
that a lay assistant basketball coach molested a 16-year-old
girl at Mater Dei High School, Callahan said.
disappointed that the judge didn't rule. We were hoping that
the bishop would have the opportunity to exonerate
himself by telling the truth, but he didn't get the
opportunity,'' he said.
At a news
conference outside court, two of the young women who were
plaintiffs in the cases angrily asked Brown and his
attorneys questions about how church officials handled
Brown did not
respond to the questions directly, but apologized.
''To both of you,
and to the other victims, all I can do is repeat once
again my sincerest and deepest and most compassionate
apology on the part of the church for what happened to
you, which was terrible and sinful and criminal and
reprehensible,'' Brown said. ''I'm just so very sorry it
Three years ago,
Brown agreed to pay $100 million to settle lawsuits from
about 90 sexual abuse victims. (AP)