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La Jolla Crime News: Sex abuse lawsuits target 6 San Diego priests; Jury deadlocks on 6 counts for restaurant owner convicted of sexual assaults

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(La Jolla Light File Photo)

La Jolla Crime and Public-Safety News:

Sex abuse lawsuits target 6 San Diego area priests, now dead

A half-dozen lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego accusing now-deceased clergy of sexually abusing 20 men and women decades ago were filed in Superior Court Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 — one day after a new state law lifting the legal time limit on when such lawsuits can be filed went into effect.

The lawsuits are the first of what will likely become a swarm of legal action in the coming months against churches and other institutions over long-ago sexual abuse of minors. Irwin Zalkin, the San Diego lawyer who filed the six lawsuits Thursday, said at a news conference that he plans to file another 60 cases over the next several months against the diocese.

“This is only the beginning,” said Zalkin, the lawyer who spearheaded a $198 million settlement of sexual abuse claims against the diocese in 2007. Those lawsuits, filed under a previous state law that opened a one-year window for claims against institutions for abuse that had occurred years earlier, drove the diocese to declare bankruptcy.

The new wave of litigation is made possible by AB 218, sponsored by San Diego Democratic Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez. The law expands the maximum age at which someone can bring a claim for sexual abuse from 26 years old to 40. It also opened a three-year window for those of any age to revive past claims that may have been prohibited from being filed as lawsuits because the legal time limit to bring such claims, known as the statute of limitations, had run out.

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The suits filed by Zalkin target six clergy members who worked at parishes in the diocese in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Each of the suits allege the diocese knew full well that the priests were abusing minors but took no action to halt them — and instead, moved the offending priests from parish to parish — without informing the members of the new parish of the danger the priest posed. The cover-up allegation is a key element in the suits because the new law allows monetary damages up to three times the amount of any compensatory damages.

The six deceased clergy members named in the lawsuits are:

Anthony Rodrigue, who served in La Jolla, Lakeside, Encinitas, Poway and other counties. Zalkin said at the news conference that Rodrigue admitted previously in depositions he had molested 150 children during his time and called him “one of the worst” abusive priests in the diocese. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading no contest in 1998 to molesting a child in San Bernardino County a year earlier. He left the priesthood in 1992.

Robert Koerner, who worked at St. Patrick’s parish in Calipatria.

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Alexander Pinter, who worked at St. Francis in Vista.

Joseph Rossell, a priest at St. Anthony’s in National City from 1956 to 1972, when he retired.

Gregory Sheridan, who served in San Diego, Ramona and Fallbrook.

Peter Marron, a member of the Augustinian order who worked at St. Patrick’s in North Park from 1970 to 1975.

In a statement Kevin C. Eckery, the vice chancellor and spokesman for the diocese, expressed sympathy and apologized to the victims, most of whom were not identified in the lawsuits and sued under Jane Doe or John Roe pseudonyms. It included this excerpt: “The sexual abuse of minors is evil, regardless of when it happens, but as a result of various reforms in 2002 and earlier, including mandatory Safe Environment training for clergy and all church workers, annual age-appropriate safety training for students in Catholic schools and religious education, enhanced criminal background checks and enhanced awareness and vigilance, no new incidents of abuse have been reported to the diocese in nearly two decades.”

Churches were not the only target of the new law.

At least one lawsuit was filed Jan. 2 in San Diego County accusing the Boy Scouts organization of a longstanding practice of failing to take reasonable steps to shield children from being sexually abused, as well as actively concealing widespread abuse. The lawsuit points out the Boy Scouts’ so-called “perversion files,” internal records on thousands of Scout leaders who’d been the subject of reports of molestation over the decades. Some of those files have been made public in recent years as a result of separate litigation. — G. Morgan, U-T

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Jury deadlocks on 6 counts for La Jolla Voce del Mar restaurant owner convicted of sexual assaults

Jurors deadlocked Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 on six felony counts stemming from the trial of a La Jolla restaurant owner previously convicted of sexually assaulting intoxicated or unconscious women over a nine-year period.

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Daniel Dorado, 61, owner of the now permanently closed Voce del Mare, an Italian restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area, was convicted in December of 20 counts, including rape of an unconscious person and rape of an intoxicated person, for sexual assaults that occurred in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Dorado faced 35 charges total related to eight women, but jurors acquitted him of three counts and were unable to reach verdicts on a dozen others. The panel deadlocked on six counts prior to the Christmas break and reconvened Monday for further deliberations on the six remaining counts, but could not reach verdicts.

Dorado, who is in custody without bail, will return to court Jan. 24 for a hearing to determine whether a second trial will be pursued for the 12 charges he still faces. A sentencing date has not yet been set for the 20 convicted counts, which cover conduct related to four of the eight alleged victims.

Dorado is accused of meeting the victims — who range in age from 22 to 58 — at local bars and restaurants, sometimes under the guise of a job interview for a position at his restaurant, or through dating websites.

Prosecutors alleged he offered the women spiked beverages, causing them to fall unconscious. Some victims reported waking up in the middle of sex acts with Dorado, while others alleged they woke up and only discovered later that they’d been sexually assaulted.

Dorado was taken into custody in March 2018 on suspicion of assaults on four women. The other alleged victims came forward after learning of his arrest.

Defense attorneys Kim Santini and Eric Youngquist alleged at trial that the sexual encounters with the women were consensual and that no evidence supported that the women had been drugged, as date rape drugs were not detected in any of the victims’ medical screenings. The defense contended the women’s supposed symptoms were more indicative of alcohol consumption.

Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told jurors that even if they didn’t believe the victims were given date rape drugs, evidence from the trial indicated the women drank enough to become noticeably unable to consent — in some cases vomiting on themselves or rendered unable to stand or walk — yet Dorado decided to have sex with them anyway. — City News Service

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Police Blotter

La Jolla incidents reported to San Diego Police:

Dec. 10, 2019

• Assault, 700 block Nautilus, 9 a.m.

Dec. 19, 2019

• Vehicle break-in, 5300 block Chelsea, 6 p.m.

Dec. 21, 2019

• Fraud, 6100 block Glennchester Row, 1:50 a.m.

Dec. 22, 2019

• Fraud, 700 block Sapphire, 3:22 p.m.

• Vehicle break-in, 2200 block Calle Frescota, 6 p.m.

Dec. 23, 2019

• Open container in park, 300 block Midway, 1:30 p.m.

• Vehicle break-in, 7300 block Draper, 9:30 p.m.

• Comercial burglary, 7400 block Herschel, 1 a.m.

Dec. 24, 2019

• Fraud, 6100 block Avenia Chamnez, 10 a.m.

• Drunk in public, 700 block Silverado St. 10:32 p.m.

Dec. 28, 2019

• Grand theft, 6900 block Paseo Laredo, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 29, 2019

• Vandalism, Colima/La Jolla Hermosa Ave, 11:30 a.m.

• Vehicle break-in, 6200 block Camino de la Costa, 4:15 p.m.

Dec. 30, 2019

• Shoplifting, 7800 block Girard, 1 p.m.

Dec. 31, 2019

• Theft, 4900 block Bayard, 5 p.m.

Jan. 2, 2020

• Vandalism over $400, Kolmar/Vista Del Mar, 9:40 p.m.

Jan. 3, 2020

• Theft from building, 6600 block Muirlands Drive, 1 p.m.

Jan. 4, 2020

• Stolen vehicle, 300 block Sea Ridge, 4 p.m.

Compiled by Light staff from San Diego Police reports.


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