Multimillion dollar award in Delaware priest sex abuse case

A man who says he was abused by a former St. Elizabeth’s priest has been awarded $33 million.

John Vai won the judgement in a Kent County court against defrocked priest, Francis DeLuca.  The verdict ruling requires St. Elizabeth to pay $3 million of that judgement for failing to stop DeLuca.  Vai says his abuse by DeLuca goes back to the 1960’s.  After the verdict was announced Vai said, “the jury believed me over our parish priest back then, Tom Cini, who actively covered-up the crimes of monster DeLuca on children.”  He called on Pope Benedict XIV and the head of the Wilmington diocese, William Malooly to remove Cini from his post as the number two person in charge of the diocese.

DeLuca who is now in his 80’s and in ill health did not attend the trial.  He was convicted of a single count of molesting his nephew while a priest in upstate New York.  Vai said the verdict is his vindication that the jury did not believe Cini who was described in court as a close friend of DeLuca.

The News Journal contacted an attorney for St. Elizabeth’s parish. St. Elizabeth’s attorney Colleen Shields declined to comment today on the result, citing that the trial is not yet over because the jury still has to consider punitive damages. 

Diocesan spokesperson Robert Krebs released a statement to the News Journal speaking for Bishop W. Francis Malooly. The statement says Malooly apologizes again on behalf of the diocese to Vai and all other victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests. However, Malooly added he was “disappointed that the jury found the people of St. Elizabeth’s liable for the acts of Francis DeLuca.”

There will be another hearing on Monday to listen to testimony to decide additional punitive damages against St. Elizabeth’s and DeLuca.  This is the first of a series of sex abuse cases against the Wilmington diocese.  Next up will be a case against St. John the Beloved and then St. Matthews churches.

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