17 new claims of abuse by priests may go to trial

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) – A new round of 17 lawsuits charging sexual abuse by priests could mean high costs in money and negative publicity for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

Twelve of the 17 cases involve former priest Edward Paquette, who worked in Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland in the 1970s. A Chittenden Superior Court judge has indicated he is prepared to hear those cases in succession beginning April 17, the day after Easter.

Paquette, 77, retired and living in Massachusetts, has refused to comment.

Jerome O’Neill, the Burlington lawyer representing the plaintiffs, already won settlements from the diocese of $150,000 and $120,000 in 2004 in two similar cases of alleged abuse by priests. The diocese also has settled two other lawsuits in the past decade.

The case set for trial April 17 alleges that a now-38-year-old man was “sexually abused and sexually exploited” by Paquette when he served as an alter boy at Christ the King Church in Burlington from the ages of 10 to 12.

O’Neill and David Cleary, the Rutland lawyer representing the diocese, both declined to comment, citing a judge’s gag order.

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