Deal reached in lawsuit over child pornography
By BILL DRAPER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn by a girl who was 2 years old when Kansas City priest Shawn Ratigan took pornographic photos of her has tentatively been settled for $600,000, a Minnesota attorney representing the girl said Wednesday.
Gregg Meyers of the St. Paul, Minn., law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates told The Associated Press about the deal before it had been officially announced. He said it was reached after a full day of mediation between the parties Tuesday, soon after U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner in Kansas City dismissed one of two counts in the suit.
Fenner dismissed one count alleging the bishop and diocese aided and abetted Ratigan in his possession of child pornography. The judge said federal law stipulates that to be guilty of aiding and abetting, a party must have done so before or during the commission of a crime.
He said the diocese and bishop didn’t know about hundreds of lewd photos on Ratigan’s laptop computer until after he had committed the crime.
Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to taking pornographic photos of the girl, known as Jane Doe 173 in the litigation, in May 2006 at a church in Buchanan County. He awaits sentencing and initially was a party to the civil lawsuit but failed to respond.
The second count, which Fenner allowed to remain, accused the bishop and diocese of receiving, possessing or distributing pornographic images of the girl.
Jack Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas City diocese, confirmed the deal but said it still must be approved by a judge because the plaintiff is a minor.
“I haven’t seen all the terms of the settlement as they were agreed to, but I can confirm $600,000 was the amount,” Smith said.
He said the deal actually addresses two lawsuits, including one the girl’s parents had planned to file in state court this week but won’t now that the settlement has been reached.
He added that the settlement will be covered by insurance.
The Ratigan case shook the local diocese and led to a misdemeanor conviction against Finn for failing to notify police or state child welfare authorities about the photos.
Finn’s conviction came four years after the church paid $10 million to settle 47 pending sexual abuse claims against the diocese and 12 of its priests. When announcing that deal in 2008, Finn apologized for the abuse that occurred at the hands of current and former clergy members, and promised that steps were being taken to make sure such abuse never happened again.
The diocese posted an update about the 2008 settlement on its website in June 2011 stating that Finn had written 118 letters of apology to plaintiffs or their families. That same month, Finn apologized for not responding to warnings the diocese received a year earlier from a parish elementary school principal detailing suspicious behavior by Ratigan around children.
Instead of reading the principal’s memo and looking into her claims, Finn left it up to subordinates to handle the matter. He later admitted it was a year before he finally read the five-page document the principal wrote detailing suspicious activities by Ratigan around children.
Finn also was informed of nude photos of children found on Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010. But instead of turning the photos over to police, Finn sent Ratigan to live at a convent in Independence, Mo.
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