The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 17, 2013

McCort facing new suit: Former student alleges abuse

JOHNSTOWN — Another former Bishop McCort student is taking legal action over alleged sexual abuse at the hands of the late Brother Stephen Baker, his attorney said Wednesday.

Altoona lawyer Richard M. Serbin said he filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Blair County court on behalf of the former student, identified only as John Doe 80.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Bishop McCort High School, retired Bishop Joseph V. Adamec, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular.

Also named are the Franciscans’ regional organization, the Province of the Immaculate Conception, and its provincial minister at the time of the alleged abuse, the Very Rev. Robert D’Aversa.

Serbin would not discuss the abuse or the circumstances through which Baker came into contact with the latest alleged victim.

“I don’t want to get into much in the way of details,” Serbin said.

“We are in discussion with the parties. At this point, that is all I can really tell you.”

Serbin has filed five other lawsuits and says he represents several others claiming abuse by Baker. Many are former McCort students, but others came into contact with Baker during his volunteer activities at other sports venues.

Baker is said to have acted as an athletic trainer at McCort and volunteered with other sports programs. Serbin said he has found no evidence Baker was ever trained or certified as a trainer.

Baker was 62 when he died in late January of a self-inflicted stab wound to the heart in his quarters at St. Bernardine Monastery just outside Hollidaysburg.

He had been accused by more than 50 men of sexually molesting them while they were students at the Johnstown parochial high school.

The incidents are believed to have occurred largely when Baker was giving the students massages as part of his treatment for sports injuries. Details of the alleged molestations have yet to be spelled out. Baker worked at Bishop McCort from 1992 through the early 2000s.

Some of the alleged victims are represented by attorneys Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, Michael Parrish of Johnstown and Susan Williams of Greensburg.

Serbin said talks are continuing to settle the victims’ claims. The latest lawsuit was filed in order to avoid missing the opportunity to take the case to trial if a settlement isn’t reached before the statute of limitations is reached. The 2002 law requires legal claims to be filed before the victim’s 30th birthday, Serbin explained.

There are negotiations to have all parties agree to stop the clock on the statute of limitations for those currently in settlement talks, Serbin said.

“If we and the diocese and the Franciscans can agree to toll the statute, then it won’t be necessary to file additional lawsuits,” he said.

Messages left for McCort board President Mark Pasquerilla and school spokesman Mark Beynon of the Madison Strategic Ventures public affairs firm in Arlington, Va., were not returned by late Wednesday afternoon.

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