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$1.5-million paid in abuse cases

By Associated Press
Published March 6, 2005

NAPLES - Three sexual misconduct cases against a former Catholic priest have been settled in recent months for $1.5-million, the victims' lawyer said.

Five lawsuits are known to have been filed against William Romero, who served at the St. Ann parish in Naples during the mid 1970s and the Archdiocese of Miami.

But attorney Ted Zelman said more victims would be found had archdiocese officials conducted a full investigation.

"I believe they acknowledge what had happened," Zelman said. "But as far as really accepting their culpability, that didn't occur."

Church officials say they've exhausted efforts to root out potential Romero victims and their investigations are shut.

Romero, 68, retired in 1995 and resigned from the clergy in 2003 after allegations resurfaced.

In November, two former St. Ann students who accused Romero of fondling them as grade school students settled with the archdiocese for $150,000 each.

And last month, the archdiocese and Diocese of Venice shared the cost of a $1.1-million settlement in a case filed by three siblings. They said that during the 1980s Romero, then a priest in a rural town near Lake Okeechobee, would do chores naked in front of them and sexually abused them.

The lawsuit also stated Romero encouraged their mother to divorce her husband.

A former altar boy also collected a $135,000 settlement last May.

In the only case pending, a man claims Romero fondled him as a 10-year-old Coral Gables altar boy in 1975. The case is slated for an April trial.

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