Catholic school sex-abuse confidentiality trial begins
MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — An attorney who has won settlements for numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey found himself on the defensive Wednesday as he testified in a lawsuit that claimed he violated a confidentiality agreement more than six years ago.
The suit filed by The Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey against attorney Gregory Gianforcaro stems from a 1988 agreement between a then-unnamed former student and the Delbarton School, a private school in western New Jersey that has been the focus of a spate of sexual abuse allegations in recent years.
Mention of the reason for the settlement was largely absent from the first day of the trial; instead, an attorney for the school grilled Gianforcaro on his actions in 2012 when he filed a motion to have the confidentiality clause voided.
Gianforcaro admitted that he told reporters the day he filed a motion that the settlement was “approximately seven figures.”
“You were well aware you couldn’t disclose the amount, but you did so anyway?” the school’s attorney asked.
Gianforcaro replied he didn’t feel his statement disclosed the actual amount. In testimony interrupted several times by objections and sidebars between the attorneys and Superior Court Judge Maryann Nergaard, Gianforcaro said he didn’t know the exact amount because it had been redacted on the copy of the agreement the former student gave him.
Gianforcaro also testified he didn’t believe he was bound by the confidentiality clause because he wasn’t representing the former student at the time it was signed.
At least one other former Delbarton student who has claimed he was sexually abused at the school is scheduled to testify at the trial, which resumes Monday.
The school is seeking repayment by Gianforcaro of the amount of the settlement.
In July, leaders of the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey said 30 people had come forward since 1988 alleging sexual abuse by priests or lay faculty at Delbarton. The alleged abuses dated back to the late 1960s.
In a letter on its website, the Order said it had settled eight lawsuits with alleged victims, while seven others were pending.
It also said the school reported the accusations to the Morris County prosecutor’s office as they emerged. The office pursued charges in one case involving the Rev. Timothy Brennan, who was convicted of aggravated sexual contact with a 15-year-old student.
According to court documents, Brennan admitted to abusing 50 boys.