Citing the coronavirus, a Los Angeles judge said Monday that trial of a case brought by two plaintiffs who allege they were sexually abused by a priest more than 25 years ago will not go forward as scheduled in October and instead be delayed for five months.
“Our world is a different place than it was when we last spoke,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo told attorneys in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused all but a few civil case matters to be put on hold from early March until June 22.
Sotelo, presiding over a status conference, rescheduled the trial from Oct. 6 to March 2, 2021. By the time a jury is impaneled, the lawsuit may no longer include the accused priest, the Rev. Carlos Rene Rodriguez, as a defendant.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Anthony M. De Marco stated in a report to the court that he has been unable to locate the clergyman and that the defendant likely has little or no money, so De Marco has decided to drop him from the case.
De Marco stated in his court papers that the decision is “without prejudice,” meaning it could be reversed later if circumstances warrant.
The two plaintiffs are identified only as John R.R. Doe and John R.F. Doe. In February 2018, they sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of San Bernardino, as well as the Congregation of the Mission Western Province, which conducts religious education and activities.
The plaintiffs allege they were abused by Rodriguez when he was assigned to a Riverside parish that was part of the San Bernardino diocese. The parish is not identified in their suit.
Rodriguez allegedly was a member of the CMWP before, during and after he is accused of molesting the two Does.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1988 assigned Rodriguez to work within its Office for Family Life to minister throughout Southern California, including the San Bernardino archdiocese, but did not inform the latter organization that Rodriguez had an alleged history of molesting children, the suit states.
John R.F. Doe alleges Rodriguez began abusing him in 1993 at a time when the plaintiff was a minor and unaware the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had previously suspended the clergyman from the ministry for allegedly abusing other children.
In the fall of 2016, John R.F. Doe saw a television report regarding Rodriguez that dealt with the priest’s ministry at a church in Los Angeles and allegations he had molested children in the past, the suit states. The plaintiff “became very upset” after hearing the report and for the first time in his life began to “actively think about Father Rodriguez and child sex abuse he had committed” upon him, the suit alleges.
John R.R. Doe says he was 7 or 8 years old when Rodriguez allegedly began molesting him, also in 1993.
In the spring of 2017, John R.R. Doe’s brother asked him if he had been abused by Rodriguez and the plaintiff replied that he had, the suit alleges. John R.R. Doe’s says his memories were affected by a longtime alcohol problem and that he also subconsciously suppressed his memories of the abuse allegations due to his feelings of shame and guilty.