Jury sides with two brothers in civil suit against Green Bay Diocese
Published: May 24, 2012
GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- A jury May 21 sided with two brothers in a civil lawsuit filed in January 2008 against the Diocese of Green Bay. The lawsuit claimed fraud by the diocese based on plaintiffs Todd and Troy Merryfield's allegation that the diocese knew that then-priest John Feeney had a history of sexual molestation and was a danger to children. Feeney, now 85, was convicted in 2004 of sexually assaulting the brothers in 1978, when they were 12 and 14. They were members of St. Nicholas Parish in Freedom, where Feeney was pastor. The Outagamie County Circuit Court jury of five women and seven men awarded damages of $700,000 to the Merryfields. During closing arguments, the plaintiffs' attorneys asked the jury to award the brothers $2.8 million. On May 23, Judge Nancy Krueger dismissed all claims for punitive damages against the diocese. During a brief hearing that morning, Krueger announced the plaintiffs had decided not to pursue their punitive damages against the diocese. "Based upon that, the court is dismissing the claim for punitive damages with prejudice," the judge stated. The Merryfields accused the diocese and the late Bishop Aloysius Wycislo of covering up the priest's history of assaults. Feeney, who was a priest of the diocese from 1952 until he was removed from the clerical state in 2005, is currently serving a sentence of 15 years for three counts of sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault. In a statement issued following the jury's decision May 21, Deacon Timothy G. Reilly, general director of the Green Bay diocesan curia, apologized to the Merryfield family on behalf of Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken, himself and "the entire diocese."
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