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$2M settlement to victim who priest made confess after abuse

ERIE, Pa. — A Roman Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $2 million to a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who made him say confession after the assaults.

The settlement with the Diocese of Erie was announced Tuesday by the victim’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

The defrocked priest, David Poulson, was sentenced this year to 2 1/2 to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of one boy and attempted sexual assault of another.

Garabedian confirmed at a press conference Tuesday that his client who is identified as John Doe in documents was one of the two boys abused by Poulson in his criminal case.

“This settlement is significant because it shows that the Diocese of Erie is responsible for the wholesale sexual abuse of children post, after 2002,” when the church put revised policies for handling abuse into effect, Garabedian said.

During a news conference Tuesday, Garabedian alleged that the diocese was aware of allegations of abuse against Poulson earlier than the 2018 report by a military chaplain that his client had disclosed significant abuse.

“The $2 million represents validation to my client that the abuse was not his fault and that he did nothing wrong,” he said.

The Erie diocese turned over a “confidential memorandum” dated in 2010 that contained an admission by Poulson that he had been “aroused” by a boy, prosecutors said.

Poulson started at the diocese in 1979 and resigned in 2018.

In a statement late Tuesday, Anne-Marie Welsh, a spokeswoman for the diocese said Bishop Lawrence Persico respected the right of the victim in the settlement to remain anonymous and to publicly disclose details of the agreement. The statement said the bishop took issue with Garabedian’s characterization of how the diocese handled this specific allegation, saying law enforcement was immediately notified when the report was made.

The Bishop “has expressed his disappointment and surprise at the amount of misinformation in Mr. Garabedian’s comments. He failed to take into account much information that is publicly available.

If what Mr. Garabedian alleges were true and complete, then Attorney General Shapiro would have prosecuted individuals beyond David Poulson,” Welsh wrote in an email to reporters.

Poulson is one of a handful of priests criminally charged as a result of a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation that detailed decades of abuse by 300 priests.

He was accused of abusing the man when he was an altar boy more than 20 times in various rectories. According to charging documents in Poulson’s case, the man said the priest would make him confess the abuse to him after it occurred.

Poulson took the victims to his primitive, secluded hunting camp in Jefferson County about a decade ago, where they watched horror movies on a laptop and he abused them, prosecutors said. The victims were 8 and 15 at the time the crimes occurred, according to authorities.

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