First Court Hearing in Utah Catholic Sexual Abuse Case

First Court Hearing in Utah Catholic Sexual Abuse Case

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John Hollenhorst ReportingFather James Rapp is in prison now for sexually abusing children in other states. But in Salt Lake, Ralph and Charles Colosimo are seeking tens of millions of dollars in civil damages and today was the first court hearing.

Attorneys representing various entities of the Catholic Church tried to get the whole case thrown out before it starts. The judge has not said how he will rule, but his remarks from the bench suggest the case is in trouble because the statute of limitations expired roughly 20 years ago.

The Colosimo brothers were teenagers when the abuse allegedly occurred. They claim Father James Rapp, a teacher at Judge Memorial, repeatedly attacked them sexually, including once at gunpoint. In court, everyone including the judge denounced Father Rapp as deplorable and despicable.

Russell Fericks, Attorney for Fr. Rapp's Order: "He has been defrocked and no longer has his faculties to act as a priest anywhere."

From his prison cell Father Rapp did not respond to the lawsuit so the brothers won a minor victory -- a default judgment, which means they can go after his assets.

Larry Keller, Attorney for Colosimo Brothers: "It's unlikely that we could do anything but attach his few cents an hour that he might make in the prison license plate shop."

But the brothers are seeking millions from the Catholic Church. They claim Father Rapp's superiors knew he was sexually abusing children and swept it under the carpet, even before the Colosimo brothers were abused.

Catholic Church attorneys say the case should be thrown out. They say filing a lawsuit two decades after the statute of limitations expired is unfair to defendants.

Russell Fericks, Attorney for Fr. Rapp's Order: "At a certain point in time it becomes difficult for the defendants to defend. Can you find the witnesses? Can you find the documents? Can you find other parties who might be liable?”

But exceptions to the statute of limitations can be granted in certain circumstances, when new information comes to light. The Colosimos' attorney says no one knew about the church cover up until secret documents were released last year.

Larry Keller, Attorney for Colosimo Brothers: "We believe that it's been a pattern and policy of the Catholic Church to deliberately conceal information until they absolutely have to cough it up."

The judge’s questions from the bench today suggested he is skeptical about whether exceptions to the statute of limitations apply in this case. He didn't commit himself and plans a written ruling, but it seems like a serious possibility now that he'll throw out some, if not all of the Colosimos’ case.

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