May 6, 2014


April 15, 2014

Summary: A current sexual abuse case against a former priest in Maine has the potential to be precedent in future sexual abuse cases.  Maine statute of limitations would have normally been exceeded in this particular case; but because the ex-priest later moved out of state, the lawsuit might hold weight. 

In Maine, taking out the trash could take on a whole new meaning.  A current sexual abuse lawsuit against a former Catholic priest in Bangor, Maine could have far reaching effects in future litigation against child molesters.  The lawsuit, filed by Christine Angell claiming that ex-priest Renald Hallee sexually abused her from 1970-1973 when she was 8-11 years old, is a complicated matter.  The complication is that in 1978 – before the statute of limitations was expired – Hallee moved from Maine to Massachusetts, leaving the priesthood in the process.  This is no standard “passing the trash” case; in those cases, a school knowingly transfers a predator teacher to another school district in an effort to keep abuses quiet.  A byproduct to this thinking is that it allows the predator teacher a fresh avenue to re-offend.

This is not one of those cases; yet, the result of this lawsuit could determine the degree in which predators that ‘leave the scene of the crime’ for another school, city, or state.  If an institution (school, church et. al.) were to knowingly send an abuser to another area, this case could ensure that those that leave the state will still be held accountable; ditto for the schools.  The statute of limitations should be suspended from the day he left Maine until the day that Angell could have reasonably served him a lawsuit.  If Angell is successful, it could mean that both predator and institution can no longer circumvent the law while they harbor and facilitate known sexual molesters.  This year, the U.S. Senate will vote on S.1596 – the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act.  If the bill is enacted, it would make lawsuits like this one much easier to litigate; national registries, background checks, fingerprint cards, continuous evaluation, and the ability to share records of teachers would significantly crack down on this practice.

When Hallee left the priesthood – and Maine – in 1977, it became increasingly difficult to track him down.  When a judge in 2012 ruled that the statute of limitations should be upheld, the judge’s reasoning was that Angell could have obtained the new address through the diocese.  There are a couple problems with this mentality: first, the internet wasn’t exactly in use back then.  Secondly: had he molested Angell, it’s not like he would leave her his new address with the diocese he no longer associated with.  It would seem clear that common sense should prevail, and not bind Angell to the statute of limitations, considering it was Hallee that would have cheated the statute by moving to Massachusetts.

At Estey & Bomberger, we hope that the state of Maine does the right thing; allow this lawsuit to move forward.  Think of it in other terms; look at who would benefit by such a decision, and who would be afflicted.  Those who would win are the victims, the community in which this school is located, and justice itself.  Those who would lose are the ex-priest, and the Catholic Church.  Considering that the Catholic Church canonizes secrecy (especially information that makes the Church look bad), has a track record of fighting against (as opposed to working with) victims of clergy abuse and, specifically to California, has fought tooth and nail against legislation that gives victims more options to hold them accountable.   Our question is, how could a compassionate person not want to see this case move forward?


Maine high court to decide if lawsuit claiming abuse by ex-priest living out of state may go forward