Judge Orders Verdict of $400,000 in Catholic Church Abuse Case

organConnecticut Superior Court Judge Cynthia Swienton has issued a verdict in favor of a survivor of child sexual abuse involving a Catholic youth choir director.

The defendant, Shawn Pahl, was a part-time youth choir director for St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in New Britain, Connecticut. The victim was 12 years old when he first met Pahl and a minor when he was abused, so was called Michael Doe in court documents. Doe liked music and wanted to play the organ and sing in the youth choir. The two developed a friendship.

When Doe was confirmed in the Catholic Church, he asked Pahl to be his confirmation sponsor. When Doe was confirmed, he was 14; Pahl was 33. After the confirmation ceremony, the two went back to Pahl’s parent’s home for dinner. Later, the two discussed various topics, including homosexuality. Doe had suspected from the rainbow stickers on Pahl’s car that he was gay. Doe was excited to talk to someone about what he was going through with his own sexuality. He was not close with his mother, and his father was not in his life. Pahl became a father figure and mentor. He then sexually molested Doe on at least one occasion at Pahl’s home.

“Unfortunately, Pahl used this misplaced trust to take advantage of the situation and begin the process of grooming the plaintiff for his own sexual pleasures,” Superior Court Judge Cynthia Swienton wrote in her decision in the subsequent lawsuit.

The Catholic Diocese of Hartford and the pastor of the church were named defendants in the civil sex abuse lawsuit but were later removed from the lawsuit after they won a summary judgment motion.

Pahl was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of risk of injury to a minor. He reached a plea deal and was sentenced to five years in prison, suspended after one year; five years of probation; and 10 years on the state’s sex offender registry.

Since then, Pahl has been in trouble multiple times for violating terms of his sentence, which barred him from visiting pornographic websites and taking explicit photographs of himself. He has received additional jail time.

In awarding $400,000 in damages to Doe, the Judge recognized that Pahl likely had no money to pay the judgment, but stated: “His actions have made an indelible mark on the plaintiff, for which no monetary compensation will erase. Pahl has done damage and harm to a young man, whose future is still bright given his obvious intelligence and talents.”

Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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