Ex-Altar Boy, Mom Win $800G in Case

The Omaha Archdiocese will pay $800,000 in damages to a former altar boy and his mother following a civil verdict involving a priest who has already been convicted of sexual assault and making child pornography.

A jury awarded the damages Friday after a two-week trial. The Omaha Archdiocese had admitted negligence in failing to adequately supervise the Rev. Daniel Herek, who allegedly sexually abused the boy, now 23, from 1992 to 1997.

The trial was to determine the amount of damages the archdiocese would pay.

``I think they're satisfied,'' attorney Harold Zabin said about his clients, who have asked their names not be used. He said the verdict was substantially more than the last offer the archdiocese made for a settlement.

The mother and son had been seeking a combined $4 million — $3 million for the former altar boy and $1 million for the mother.

On a 10-2 decision, the jury awarded $750,000 to the man and $50,000 to his mother.

Zabin had argued that his clients suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the abuse, and that the disorder could require a lifetime of mental treatments costing more than $350,000.

He had asked the jury to award the rest of the requested $4 million in damages for the mother and son's mental anguish and a return to justice.

An attorney for the archdiocese, William Johnson, argued that mother and son suffer from mental anguish, but not post-traumatic stress disorder and therefore did not warrant an award of more than $200,000.

He has said the archdiocese should pay a fair and appropriate amount for the mother and son's past and future psychological care.

``What occurred is abhorrent,'' Johnson told the jury during closing arguments Thursday. ``The archdiocese does admit it went on during its watch.''

A message left Friday for Johnson was not immediately returned.

Lawsuits were filed by the former altar boy and his mother several years ago, before the recent priest sex abuse accusations began sweeping through the Roman Catholic church.

The award came the same day American bishops meeting in Dallas adopted a policy that will bar sexually abusive clergy from face-to-face contact with parishioners but keep them in the priesthood.

In other developments related to the scandal Friday:

— A Long Island priest, once a member of a church panel that investigated sex abuse allegations, has been suspended after it learned of an abuse accusation. The allegation was made by a man who said the priest fondled him when he was a teen-ager 25 years ago, Bishop William Murphy said.

— A judge set aside a lower court's order to immediately release transcripts of depositions given by Boston Cardinal Bernard Law and a former deputy in the case of a priest accused of child sex abuse. The ruling turns the matter over to a judge assigned this month to oversee all clergy sex abuse lawsuits in the Boston archdiocese.

— A priest in Indiana accused of molesting two women in the 1960s has been placed on administrative leave — the second sexual misconduct case to hit his parish in Haubstadt in the past month.