This is something you don’t hear about every day.
From Minnesota Lawyer:
In a man-bites-dog case with few if any precise corollaries, a Roman Catholic priest designated as “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct by the Diocese of Duluth just last April has successfully sued the man who made the allegations against him.
After a three-day trial before 6th Judicial District Court Judge Theresa Neo, an eight-member jury awarded the Rev. William Graham $13,500 to compensate him for the $500 monthly stipend he did not receive during the period from May 2016, when he was placed on administrative leave from his job as parish priest at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Duluth, to August 2018, when the trial was held.
In answers to questions listed on a special verdict form, the jury said that Graham’s accuser, former Duluth police officer T. J. Davis, Jr., “intentionally interfered” with Graham’s employment and, further, that his actions were not justified.
But the jury also found that Davis’ conduct was not “so extreme and outrageous that it passed the boundaries of decency and was utterly intolerable to a civilized community” and it expressly declined to award additional damages that would “fairly compensate” Graham.
What is one to make of such an odd, seemingly contradictory verdict?
Michael Bryant of Bradshaw & Bryant, who served as lead defense counsel and has since filed a notice of appeal, did not respond to Minnesota Lawyer’s request for comment.
Matt Abbott unpacks the case, and includes this August statement from the diocese:
- The diocese was not a party to this lawsuit, which was commenced by Father William Graham against a private citizen. The diocese’s commitment is to the safety of children. In that vein, after a thorough and deliberate process, Father Graham was determined to have been credibly accused of abusing a minor, and accordingly has been removed from ministry. Bishop Sirba stands by that decision, which has been affirmed by the Vatican. The judge in the case ruled that the diocese did not have to provide the documents of its internal investigation to the court. We continue to pray for all involved.
David F. Pierre Jr. of TheMediaReport.com asserts that Father Graham was “falsely accused” and cites the jury’s verdict as proof. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of Father Graham’s guilt or innocence given the diocese’s statement. This is a case where one jury – in the secular court – decided in favor of the accused priest; but another “jury” – the diocese’s review board – decided in favor of the accuser.
So I ask somewhat rhetorically: how do we determine whether Father Graham is truly innocent or guilty? (Yes, I do realize that God knows the truth.)
At last report, Father Graham remains removed from ministry. Stay tuned.