Man sues Denver Archdiocese for assault by convicted priest

DENVER (AP) — A man who says he was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a teenager by his Catholic priest more than 20 years ago filed a lawsuit Thursday against the now-departed priest and the Denver Archdiocese, citing a recently passed law allowing victims a can sue even if the statute of limitations has expired.

DENVER (AP) — A man who says he was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a teenager by his Catholic priest more than 20 years ago filed a lawsuit Thursday against the now-departed priest and the Denver Archdiocese, citing a recently passed law allowing victims a can sue even if the statute of limitations has expired.

The lawsuit is against Timothy Evans, a priest convicted in 2007 of sexually assaulting other teens in two Colorado counties around the same time frame. The Vatican laicized Evans, essentially removing him from the priesthood while in prison. He was paroled in 2020 with plans to live with family and find work in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The lawsuit was filed in state court by Scott Verti, alleging that he committed approximately 100 instances of abuse while serving as an altar boy at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Fort Collins from 1998 to 2003. Verti, 38, was between 13 and 18 years old. at that moment.

The filing is allowed under a 2021 Colorado law that opened up a three-year window for people to file lawsuits for sexual abuse they suffered as a child dating back to 1960. It is part of a nationwide effort to make it easier for victims to seek justice later in life after they have had time to process what happened.

A spokesman for the Denver Archdiocese, Kelly Clark, said the process had not yet been served or seen, but added that it would not comment on pending legislation. Evans could not be reached for comment.

According to CHILD USA, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group, about two dozen states have extended or lifted their statutes of limitations in the past 20 years.

Some states have allowed claims to go back decades, including New York, California, and New Jersey that allow sexual assault claims regardless of how much time has passed.

Until the law was changed in Colorado, victims of child sexual abuse only had until the age of 24 to file lawsuits against abusers and had to file lawsuits against employers of alleged abusers by the time they turned 21.

At 24, Verti said he wasn’t in a place where he could talk about what happened to him, let alone sue. He said he was deeply gripped by an addiction that developed as a result of the abuse. Verti claimed Evans told him no one would believe him if Verti reported the priest’s actions.

Verti said the abuse caused him to be diagnosed with chronic insomnia at age 14 and prevented him from maintaining all kinds of long-term relationships. He said that after therapy, he wasn’t able to process what had happened until his mid-thirties. When he heard that Evans had been released from prison early, Verti said he wanted to stand up for other victims after being silent for so many years.

“It allows me to rectify this regret about not coming forward,” Verti, who is now engaged, said of his lawsuit.

The Associated Press does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, but Verti filed the lawsuit under his name and agreed to be publicly identified.

Evans was under investigation by law enforcement after three victims stepped forward from 2003 — a year after Boston’s Catholic Church sex abuse scandal exploded after they were exposed by The Boston Globe — to report abuse several years earlier.

Verti’s lawsuit alleges the archdiocese defaulted because it knew of the risk Evans posed even before he was ordained in 1993, citing conclusions from a 2019 review of the commissioned archdiocese’s archives from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. According to Weiser’s report, Evans was sent home early from North American College in Rome after fellow seminary students reported that Evans had made them uncomfortable and one of them later told the archdiocese’s vicar of the clergy that Evans had sexually assaulted him harassed.

Evans was then ordered to complete a “carefully supervised pastoral apprenticeship” in churches across the archdiocese, where he was subsequently accused of having inappropriate boundaries and judgment in relationships with teenage boys. The supervising pastor reported this to the archbishop and vicar of the clergy, but nothing was done to investigate and Evans was transferred to another parish, the report on the review said.

The review, conducted by former Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, was conducted under an agreement brokered by the Attorney General’s office. The archdiocese agreed to make its files available and pay victims of abuse however much a mediator decides. However, victims who accepted these reparations had to waive their right to sue.

One of Verti’s attorneys, Kurt Zaner, said Verti applied around Thanksgiving to take advantage of the church’s reinstatement process. However, after one meeting to discuss his case, they haven’t heard from officials, prompting Verti to press ahead with the lawsuit, Zaner said.

“They didn’t reject us from the program, but they didn’t accept us either,” Zaner said.

In a statement, the archdiocese said the process is confidential and it cannot comment on Verti’s participation. It noted that it paid more than $6 million in reparations in more than 55 cases in its recovery program from 2019 to 2020. Since then, it said it has offered a protocol that independent administrators use to resolve “certain claims”.

“The Archdiocese of Denver cares about all survivors of sexual abuse and is fully committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community – children, youth and adults at risk,” it said.

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This story has been corrected to show that Verti is 38 years old, not 37.

Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press

Man sues Denver Archdiocese for assault by convicted priest

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