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Dave Roepke, Published January 27 2010

New abuse claims against former Shanley teacher

A third lawsuit in North Dakota accusing a former teacher at Fargo’s Shanley High School of sex abuse was filed in Cass County District Court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit claims that Brother Raimond Rose, on a school-sponsored overnight trip to Bismarck in 1978 or 1979, groped Paul Mehl while he was sleeping. Mehl, 48, of Fargo, was 16 or 17 years old at the time, according to the civil complaint.

Rose, who was a Shanley religion teacher from 1976 to 1980, is listed as a defendant along with Shanley High School, the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, Bishop Samuel Aquila and the order to which Rose was a member, The Christian Brothers of the Midwest.

It marks the 10th lawsuit in North Dakota or Minnesota alleging sexual abuse by Rose, though the 84-year-old hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Mehl’s attorneys say the school, the diocese and the brotherhood should have known Rose was a threat because a student at a Minneapolis school in 1966 reported being sexually abused by him.

Kristi Hastings, a Fergus Falls, Minn., attorney who is representing Mehl, said the allegations in Mehl’s lawsuit are much like the ones leveled in previous civil actions against Rose – a claim that he abused a sleeping boy while on an out-of-town field trip.“The facts are very similar to the others,” she said.

The spokeswoman for the Fargo diocese, Tanya Watterud, said a statement on the manner might be released Tuesday but none was by 6 p.m.

In court responses to the first two lawsuits filed in Cass County, lawyers for the diocese, Shanley and Aquila asked for the suits to be dismissed on grounds that the court doesn’t have proper jurisdiction to hear the lawsuits and that the plaintiffs didn’t properly establish claims for relief.

North Dakota law requires childhood sex abuse lawsuits to be filed by the time the victim is 19 years old, unless the plaintiff is unaware of the possibility that a claim exists. If they don’t discover the potential for a claim until later, they have two years to file suit.

Hastings said Mehl didn’t know a claim existed until he heard news reports in December about the Christian Brothers getting complaints in 1966 about Rose.

Lawyers for the Christian Brothers have denied in court records that the order knew of those allegations in 1966.

Bob Schwiderksi, director of the North Dakota and Minnesota chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he thinks the order was aware of the abuse claims and criticized both the Christian Brothers and the Fargo diocese for not speaking up about the incidents.

“They knew, they knew,” he said in a news conference at the Cass County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Schwiderksi said he has spoken with about 30 purported victims of Rose in North Dakota, and he expects more lawsuits to be filed in the near future.

Hearings on motions to dismiss in the two North Dakota lawsuits already filed against Rose are set for Feb. 17 and March 3.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535