SPOKANE, Wash. – A former priest accused in many of the child sex-abuse claims that bankrupted the eastern Washington Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $5 million to victims, who'll likely never be paid.
Even though Patrick O'Donnell doesn't have the money he agreed to pay, a lawyer for some two dozen victims says getting the former priest to own up to his actions will help them put the abuse behind them.
"I think we achieved our goal, which was to get a judgment, and hopefully we can deprive him of as many assets as we can," the victims' lawyer, Timothy Kosnoff, said Monday.
O'Donnell avoids a civil trial that was scheduled this week. A court hearing to record the settlement is set for Wednesday.
O'Donnell's lawyer, John Bergman of Seattle, declined to release details of the settlement, saying documents were still being prepared. "We want to put an end to this case," Bergman said.
O'Donnell's telephone number is unlisted and for years he has declined to talk with reporters.
In numerous depositions, O'Donnell admitted to molesting dozens of teenage boys over three decades. He refused to testify in the civil trial, however, and Kosnoff said the settlement was the best that could be achieved.
O'Donnell was named in 66 of the 176 claims alleging sexual abuse by priests in the Spokane diocese, more than any other local priest.
Lawsuits filed by O'Donnell's victims were a major factor in the bankruptcy the Spokane Diocese entered in 2005. He did not contribute to the sweeping $48 million settlement with victims the diocese reached last year.
This settlement means none of his Spokane victims will have to face O'Donnell in court, though other lawsuits are pending.
He was a priest in the Spokane Diocese in the 1970s and early 1980s. When parents complained about the sex abuse, he was sent quietly away for treatment and transferred to Seattle.
But police were never told and the statute of limitations has expired, so O'Donnell was never charged with crimes.
O'Donnell, 66, lives in a nice house in La Conner, but state law prevents him from losing his home or his retirement funds.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs will work to identify all of O'Donnell's assets, including any he might have transferred to other people, Kosnoff said.
"We have reason to believe that has occurred," he said.
The lawsuits were originally filed in 2002 but were delayed until the complex bankruptcy of the Spokane Diocese was resolved.
O'Donnell began therapy for his sexual conduct in the early 1970s while serving as a priest in Spokane. Yet even while in treatment, O'Donnell continued to have sexual contact with teen boys that he didn't disclose to the therapist.
O'Donnell said in a court deposition that he stopped having sexual contact with boys in 1980, and removed himself from the priesthood in 1986.
After that, O'Donnell practiced psychology in the Bellevue area, treating patients age 12 and older.
The Washington state Board of Psychology began investigating O'Donnell in 2002 after complaints from some of those he victimized while he was a priest. O'Donnell surrendered his license to practice psychology in January 2004.