An Ohio appellate court yesterday reinstated a 2005 lawsuit filed by a Toledo woman alleging that Gerald Robinson, the Toledo priest convicted last year in the 1980 murder of a nun, was part of a group that repeatedly tortured and raped her in satanic rituals when she was a child.
The 6th District Court of Appeals said the statute of limitations does not bar the woman's claims because she did could not identify her alleged abusers "until she saw their faces/names from the television and newspaper reports about them" in 2004 and 2005.
In separate court action, attorneys representing Robinson in the murder case have asked the appellate court to release the 69-year-old Catholic priest from prison on a $250,000 property bond, with electronic monitoring, pending the outcome of his criminal appeal.
"Appellant has now languished in prison for 19 months awaiting this court's merit review of his conviction," said the 92-page motion, filed on Robinson's behalf Wednesday by attorneys John Donahue and Richard Kerger.
Mr. Kerger acknowledged yesterday that it would be highly unusual for a court to let a convicted murderer out on bond, but said this case has been unusual "from the get-go."
Robinson, a longtime priest in the Toledo Catholic Diocese, was arrested in April, 2004, for the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, who was strangled nearly to death and then stabbed 31 times on April 5, 1980 - Holy Saturday - in a chapel at the then-Mercy Hospital.
The priest was convicted of murder in May, 2006, after a three-week trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court and is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence at Hocking Correctional Facility in southeast Ohio.
Mr. Kerger said the motion seeking Robinson's release was filed because there are "serious issues involved and the fellow literally could die in prison before the matter is finally resolved."
Mr. Donahue filed similar motions that were re-jected by Judge Thomas Osowik, of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, in October, 2006, and a 6th District Court of Appeals panel the following month.
"This appears to be a regurgitation of what they have already filed and have been denied," Dean Mandros, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, said yesterday. "Nothing in the case has changed to justify letting this man, that the jury found to be guilty, out at this time."
In the civil case, the appellate court reversed a decision in January by Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Ruth Ann Franks to throw out the woman's suit because her claims were made after the statute of limitations had expired.
The woman sued anonymously in April, 2005, as Survivor Doe with her husband, Spouse Doe, claiming she was the victim of sexual abuse and torture during ritualistic ceremonies in the basement of St. Adalbert Catholic Church in North Toledo, starting in 1968, when she was 5, and continuing until 1975.
The woman, now in her 40s, sued Robinson; Gerald Mazuchowski, a former lay minister; the Toledo Catholic Diocese; St. Adalbert Parish, and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales alleging that Robinson, Mr. Mazuchowski, and other men dressed in nuns' habits and using women's names abused her during bizarre rituals.
Among other allegations, she said the group cut her with a knife; made her drink the blood of animals; drew an upside down cross on her abdomen, and forced her to perform sex acts on the men.
The suit also said the victim's mother participated in the abuse and was becoming a "high priestess of Satan."
Survivor Doe said she did not know the names of her abusers until she saw Robinson on TV after his 2004 arrest, and a photo of Mr. Mazuchowski accompanying a 2005 Blade article.
The appeals court cited four reasons that Survivor Doe's case was unique:
•She did not know the perpetrators' identities until years after the abuse.
•The men "successfully controlled Survivor Doe during the abusive years by threatening to kill her if she 'told.'•"
•The victim was psychologically impaired by the trauma.
•She never considered that her perpetrators could be priests "because of her indoctrination in the Roman Catholic Church belief that priests are divinely chosen as representatives of God and the parish is a protector of children."
Thomas Pletz, an attorney for the Toledo diocese and St. Adalbert, called it "a preliminary decision" and pointed to a statement in the appeals court decision that said, "Whether or not the discovery rule is applicable to this case is an issue that can only be addressed after further facts are put in evidence."
Mark A. Davis, Survivor Doe's attorney, described the ruling as "huge."
"For the last five years, the church has been able to hide behind the statutes of limitations, which prevent the merits of the case from being heard," he said.
"Now the actual facts of the case can be explored and exposed, which can make for a scary Halloween for the Catholic Church."
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.