OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Two survivors of child sexual abuse alleged to have happened at the hands of priests in the Catholic Diocese of Oakland during the 1970s filed lawsuits on Tuesday.
The lawsuits were filed under California’s new Child Victims Act (AB 218), a law which takes affect January 1, 2020, that extended the statute of limitations and provides a three-year window for sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against abusers in past cases, regardless of when the abuse occurred or how old the survivor is.
The lawsuits against the Diocese of Oakland allege abuse against one of the plaintiffs by notorious, twice-convicted serial child abuser Fr. Stephen Kiesle and the other plaintiff by Diocese of Oakland priest Fr. George E. Crespin. Both plaintiffs were sexually abused during the mid-1970s at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City. Kiesle worked at Our Lady of the Rosary from approximately 1975 until his first arrest in 1978, while Crespin worked at Our Lady of the Rosary from approximately 1972-79.
At a press conference held to announce the lawsuits, attorney Jeff Anderson praised the new law that is giving the two survivors a chance to take action against their abusers and “identify any institution or organization that made a conscious choice to enable it.”
“In these cases, it was the Diocese of Oakland and the Catholic Bishops in Oakland who made the conscious choices to protect both of these offenders and many others,” said Anderson.
James Brogan, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, spoke to KPIX back in March about the alleged abuse he experienced as a child. He says Fr. Crespin assaulted him three times and intentionally covered up abuse by other priests.
“It’s weighed heavy on my life for so long, if it could help anybody else, I’d love to help,” Brogan said.
Brogan’s lawyers assumed he would not show his face at the Tuesday press conference and expected he would go by “John Doe” in the lawsuit. Brogan said he chose to come forward in hopes that it will prevent future children from being preyed upon.
“I don’t want to see anyone else go through this, to see them shuffle guys around its just wrong,” Brogan said.
Another abuse survivor, Brian Barnes, also spoke at the press conference about his ordeal and his reasons for speaking out.
“I went to my parents and told them what had happened a long time ago and it was something that nobody spoke about. I kept it to myself basically for decades,” said Barnes. “In 2004, I had my first daughter and realized she could be a victim. I subsequently had two more daughters and realized they could be victims.”
Barnes continued: “I as a child lost my faith and lost my trust of being around men. Basically, it was a childhood lost. I didn’t want my children to have that. And so my point of being here is if I can save one child by alerting parents to watch out and what can happen in this world — there are a lot of bad people. We have a church that seems to systematically brush it under the rug and allow that behavior to continue. And it’s gotta stop.”
The Diocese of Oakland released a statement after the announcement of the two lawsuits. While they had not received the lawsuits nor were they able to comment on pending litigation, chancellor of the Diocese Stephen Wilcox said, “We welcome the opportunity to review new information, and continue to pledge to support justice and healing for survivors and protection for all children.”
“The needs of victims and survivors, and the protection of children and vulnerable adults are our first priority,” said Bishop Michael Barber. As part of the effort to be transparent and provide information, in February 2019, the Diocese released a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The list continues to be updated and can be found online.
Anderson’s team also released a list Tuesday that included more than 200 clergymen in the Bay Area who are publicly accused of sexually assaulting children. The list the Diocese of Oakland released back in February only included 45 names and Father George Crespin wasn’t one of them.
Anderson’s law firm filed a fraud lawsuit against the Diocese of Oakland in Alameda County Superior Court in 2010 on behalf of Kathleen Stonebraker of Pinole, four other women and one man who claimed they were abused by Kiesle in Pinole in the 1970s. That lawsuit was dismissed in 2011 because it was filed after the statute of limitations deadline for a fraud claim.
Susie Steimle contributed to this report.