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Lawsuit Claims Savannah Diocese Let Known Child Molester Be Priest

priest abuse lawsuit

A lawsuit filed last week in Chatham County, Georgia claims that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah allowed a “rapist” priest who “admitted to the Diocese that he was a child molester” serve at St. James Catholic Church in Savannah. The lawsuit contends that the plaintiff was sexually abused by Wayland Yoder Brown because the diocese orchestrated fraudulent activity to hide Brown’s predatory behavior from St. James students and the public.

The lawsuit states that the child sex abuse occurred multiple times, from August 1987, when the plaintiff was around 13 years old, to May 1988. The lawsuit claims that Brown told the plaintiff that he and his family would be eternally condemned if he told anyone about the abuse.

The lawsuit states, “On August 8, 1986, Bishop Lessard advised Rapist Brown that law enforcement of counties in Georgia had contacted the Diocese about Brown’s conduct in raping children.” The lawsuit then adds that “Rapist Brown admitted to the Diocese that he was a child molester.”

The lawsuit contains, as an exhibit, an alleged memo from “Father Simmons & Father Smith” to “Bishop Raymond W. Lessard” dated May 19, 1987. The memo notes positive and negative points regarding possible assignment locations for Brown. For negative points regarding an appointment in Columbus, the memo noted that it was very close to a high school and elementary school. “Students are very close to the rectory – maximum exposure to possible problems.”

The memo states under negative points for an appointment at St. James, “Wayland’s past record in regard to St. James,” and “proximity to the school.”

The lawsuit also contains, as another exhibit, the alleged transcript of a meeting involving Lessard, Brown, Father William Simmons and Father Jeremiah McCarthy. Lessard asked Brown, “are you guilty of any indiscretion?” Brown responded, “yes.”

Lessard tells Brown in the meeting that charges had been filed against him.

“Despite knowing that Rapist Brown was wanted, the church disclosed nothing,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit claims that no disclosure of Brown’s abuse ever occurred and that the diocese “hid a confessed rapist from the police.”

The lawsuit contends that the plaintiff, as a result of the sexual abuse, suffered from physical and mental pain and suffering, psychological trauma and memory repression. The lawsuit contends it has been filed in a timely manner because this memory repression meant the plaintiff was unable to assert his legal rights and discover the diocese’s fraud until recently.

The lawsuit seeks to recover damages based on multiple causes of action, including battery, assault, negligence, gross negligence, wantonness, willfulness, recklessness, fraudulent concealment, civil conspiracy and constructive fraud.

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