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More alleged cleric abuse victims emerge

Wire • Mar 2, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Notification of two additional civil lawsuits on behalf of former students at Bishop McCort Catholic High School who allege they were sexually molested by the late Brother Stephen Baker were filed in Blair County court on Thursday.

Altoona attorney Richard Serbin filed the notice, the first step in the civil action, to be served on Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular; Province of the Immaculate Conception; The Very Most Rev. Father Robert D'Aversa, T.O.R.; Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown; former Bishop Joseph V. Adamec; and Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

Adamec was named because, while he is now retired, he was in charge of the diocese during the time when Baker was working at Bishop McCort, which was at that time a diocesan high school.

In 2008 the school became independent of the diocese.

D'Aversa was leader of the Province of the Immaculate Conception order during the years Baker worked for the diocese at Bishop McCort, Serbin said.

These latest filings list the claimants as John Doe 78 and John Doe 79, and likely will be followed by additional civil lawsuits, said Serbin, a clergy sexual abuse civil litigator.

"It is anticipated that additional claims will be filed on behalf of other former students who have contacted me," he said.

Earlier this week, Serbin filed civil suits listing the above named defendants on behalf of victims he listed as John Doe 75, 76 and 77.

Baker, 62, worked at Bishop McCort from about 1992 to 2000, but was seen on the campus of the Johnstown school after he left his duties as religion instructor and his work with the athletic department.

Serbin said Baker was working at the school as an athletic trainer, but there was never any evidence he had any certification in the field.

Baker died in late January from a self-inflicted knife wound to the chest inside his residence at St. Bernardine Monastery outside Hollidaysburg.

Serbin said Thursday that victim Joe Doe 78 is represented by himself and attorney Mitchell Garabedian of Boston.

Garabedian was the attorney who represented 11 alleged sexual abuse victims of Baker who reached a settlement announced in early January with the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

Baker worked at the John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, when he came to Bishop McCort.

Similar lawsuits listing four victims, former Bishop McCort students, have been filed in Cambria County court by Greensburg attorney Susan Williams.

Pittsburgh attorney Kathleen Gallagher, who is representing the high school, could not be reached for comment.

The diocese office in Altoona was closed for the afternoon Thursday to allow employees to attend a service honoring the outgoing pope.

Tony DeGol, secretary for communications for the diocese, when reached earlier this week, said he could not comment because of pending litigation.


By Kathy Mellott - The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. (MCT)

(c)2013 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

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