Adrian man fights release of sex abuse documents


In January, allegations of sexual misconduct in the 1980s came back to haunt Adrian College's music director. Now Thomas Hodgman is fighting back.

Mr. Hodgman, a former choir master at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., is one of more than a half-dozen people opposing the release of documents relating to accusations of sexual misconduct by priests, nuns, and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, California.

A hearing on the possible release of the documents has been scheduled for May 17 so Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman may consider objections from Mr. Hodgman and the others.

In January, the diocese announced details of a $100 million settlement of cases brought by 90 alleged victims of sexual misconduct, and said it would not oppose the release of documents pertaining to the cases.

Mr. Hodgman was accused of carrying out a relationship, impregnating, and passing on a venereal disease to a student while he was at Mater Dei, which is part of the diocese.

The alleged victim, Joelle Casteix, has become a vocal critic of the diocese's handling of abuse allegations, and said the release of documents is necessary to protect other potential victims.

"If he has nothing to hide, why is he fighting the release?" she asked.

Mr. Hodgman could not be reached for comment.

But a diocese spokesman, Father Joe Fenton, has stressed that the settlement does not prove wrongdoing on the part of any of the accused.

He said the diocese won't take a stand on which papers to release, in part, because of the settlement agreement.

Michael Ayre, Adrian College's business manager, said some students wore ribbons to show support for Mr. Hodgman after news reports surfaced in January about the allegations.

Stanley Caine, college president, told The Blade in January that the school received an anonymous e-mail about the allegations a few years ago. Confronted, Mr. Hodgman was "forthcoming" with school officials, Mr. Caine said, but he declined to discuss specifics of the conversation.

Both Mr. Ayre and Mr. Caine have credited Mr. Hodgman with growing the music program at Adrian.

On weekends, Mr. Hodgman works with other educators and students to offer a music class to community preschoolers, Mr. Ayre said.

According to the school's Web site, Mr. Hodgman works with 15 percent of the students as part of music education.

"We've supported Tom Hodgman since we hired him. He continues to great things for us," Mr. Ayre said, noting that Mr. Hodgman has endured "personal harassment" because of Ms. Casteix's allegations.

Claudia Vercellotti, of the Toledo chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she has been rebuffed by the school in her attempts to share information she has about the case. Rather, she said, school personnel instructed her to contact the school's attorneys.

"It was immediately hostile, and it didn't need to be," she said.

Contact Robin Erb at:

or 419-724-6133.