People have always formed opinions, even with little or no evidence. But Facebook has given them a platform to express these opinions without having to look anyone in the eye, without having to respond to any questions, without having even to give a thought as to whether their opinions, invalid and untrustworthy as they may be, are ruining another life.
After all the talk about equality and justice in the world today, we are failing to honor one of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.
It all happened again this week, when some sick mind, be he a priest hater, a Catholic who’s angry with his church, or a thrill seeker, decided Facebook should once again display and report the lurid details of a newspaper story published months ago giving a ‘victim’s account in his lawsuit that will hopefully net him money of how he was sexually assaulted by a local priest. Well over a hundred people took the time not only to read the sex-filled story but to immediately express opinions that of course the priest is guilty, of course the church hides lots of priests who are guilty of lots of things, of course the priest is disgusting. And on and on and on. Only a very sparse handful dared to call on readers to look further, get more information, doubt every word they read, maybe even feel sorry for the priest.
Nobody thinks of this. Might the “victim” be a Serial Sue-er(Spelled Sewer for easier reading) A person who has, in his sick mind, figured a way to make some easy money all the while staying protected and hidden from ridicule, disgrace, or hundreds of comments against him on Facebook.
Organizations are making it easy for the Serial Sewers. Organizations like the Boy Scouts who are going bankrupt over these accusations, and have decided they’ll just pay off everybody who has complained, no questions asked.
Organizations like the Catholic Church which does the same thing in many cases, rather than bankrupt parishes and put heavy financial burdens on hardworking churchgoing people. The Church ‘protects’ and ‘cares for’ the accused priests who are the center of controversy, but it rarely goes to court, or supplies attorneys to go to court to profess and prove the priest’s innocence.
Enter the Serial-Sewer. The guy who can be creative with a story. Or two. The guy who can give minute details of something that he wants the world to believe happened decades before, at a time he was a scout earning medals for camping, or bird watching, or photography. The guy who can drum up details of going into a priest’s home, being assaulted, but not telling anyone about it because it’s too painful or scary or whatever. But years later, when such a fable can reap big dollars without little detail, he’s in big time.
There’s a real possibility this happened. Right here. In Atlantic Highlands. And the Boy Scouts and the priest are in the news because a former resident, a resident still living in the Bayshore, close to his former home in the hills of Atlantic Highlands, has chosen to tell the legal world that not only was he assaulted by a Boy Scout leader and his son when he was a kid, but by the parish priest as well.
What do you think are the chances of one kid, in a small town like Atlantic Highlands, being assaulted by not only a neighbor and fellow Boy Scout but the parish priest as well, several times, in several places, over several months?
Can you believe it? The courts don’t have to. The kid, now 45 years old, simply gets a lawyer specializing in these kinds of cases, tells his story, signs the papers, and presto, money solves all problems. For the Serial Sewer. For that Boy Scout, the leader or the priest? Oh, well, c’est la vie!
It was in the autumn of last year that I was contacted by Serial Sewer. A Middletown resident, who wanted me to write his story in the local paper, wanted me to carry the message that when he was a young teenager and living in Atlantic Highlands, he was a boy scout in a local troop, in a unit whose patrol leader, another Boy Scout, was the son of the scoutmaster.
Serial spent several times on the phone and in e-mails telling me his story. He explained he lives in Middletown now, is married and has a family. He doesn’t live far from his former home in the next town, Atlantic Highlands, and he is employed by Monmouth County.
Yes, he had already filed suit against the Boy Scouts, he said. In fact, he gave me the telephone number of his attorney along with a copy of the e-mail he had sent to the attorney, giving him permission to tell me, a reporter, the detailed story. He told the attorney he could tell me anything so long as “it doesn’t mess up my case.”
Never once did he mention any details that would let anyone think that this scout leader’s son who he said abused him was not the only person who assaulted him. He did tell me how he was a loner as a kid, how he preferred to be by myself and write stories. He told me his outlet was his journal. Skilled in writing, he assiduously kept notes on everything. , he told me. When he ate, what he did during the day, what games he played, what books he read. So, he said, even when he was bothered by the older boy’s actions after Boy Scout meetings, he reverted to what made him feel the best….confining his pain and agony to the pages of his journal He told me he was writing his own book now, but only had three chapters done.
Yet in all our conversations, in all his being very vivid and descriptive of what was going on between him and the patrol leader, never once did he mention this was his second time, he had been sexually assaulted.
Never once did he mention the local priest. If he were in parochial school at the time of the alleged misdeeds of the priest, that would have been a year, perhaps two years, before his boy scout days and the ‘assault for which he was suing the Boy Scouts.
If another boy was doing lesser things to him than the priest, why wouldn’t an adult priest’s alleged actions be something he would have mentioned to his lawyer? Or to me, a reporter whom he wanted to get the news out? But nope, the priest didn’t come up in any conversation, any e-mail, any anything.
When I talked to the attorney, he made it clear. Most likely, Mr. Serial Sewer was getting to get money for his Boy Scout claim. And he wouldn’t have to do another thing to get it. Wouldn’t have to testify. Wouldn’t have to call witnesses. Wouldn’t have to show any evidence of anything. He would never have to appear in court. Why? Because the Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations in the nation, the organization that has seen more than 110 million American boys participate in a character development program, is part of an international Scout Movement and holds the mission to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling the values of the Scout Oath and Law” had made simply folded under financial pressure. Because of the disastrous financial blow complaints like Mr. Serial Sewer had caused the BSA, forcing it into bankruptcy, it would simply pay off all claims filed before their Nov. 16 deadline.
Mr. Serial Sewer apparently knew the deadline. That attorney he hired? Not a local counselor. Not one with an outstanding reputation in Monmouth County. Not even one with a reputation for handling sexual assault cases. Nope. Mr. Serial Sewer found his attorney, one who specialized specifically in the Boy Scout cases. He was in Florida. Mr. Serial Sewer never had to even see him. Everything could be taken care of nicely, easily, and without any costs, right between Serial’s Middletown home and the Florida law office. Heck, the thousands of dollars were practically in his pocket and now Mr. Serial Sewer wanted to tell the world through this reporter so he could ‘ help someone else.”
There was no mention made of any priest attack, assault or interaction ever happening. Just that another kid in Boy Scouts put his hand down the front of his pants before proceeding with further deviations in future encounters.
Now, 30 years after the alleged attacks, Serial Sewer’s civil lawsuit alleging continuous sexual abuse by the priest is filled with specifics, filled with the number of times he was assaulted, filled with disgustingly descriptive explanations of what this priest did to him more than 50 times when he was “13 or 14 years old.” Vivid descriptions by a self-described accomplished writer, a kid who bragged to me he kept scrupulous notes. An adult who told me in October he had three chapters of his book written. But in the lawsuit, he was “13 or 14 years old.” He doesn’t remember which? He didn’t write it down? Yet he knew the ‘attacks’ were more than 50 times?
But none of this came out last November when he was only filing suit against the Boy Scouts. There was no deadline at that time to file suits to ensure monetary payment if the charges were against priests. There is now. And so, a lawsuit was filed earlier this year. It meets the deadline for settlements and payoffs.
Part II coming Next Week