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Valley priest sues accusers, Diocese

Suit calls claims false and defamatory

YOUNGSTOWN — Father Denis G. Bouchard, who was placed on administrative leave in November after the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown received an allegation that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor, has filed a libel and slander suit against the accuser, his mother and the diocese.

The lawsuit, filed late last month in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, names the alleged victim, who lives in Chardon, his mother, who lives in Orwell, and the diocese as defendants.

It says the allegations are false and defamatory.

Monsignor John Zuraw, chancellor of the Diocese of Youngstown, when asked about the lawsuit, said, “Because there is a civil suit that is active, we cannot make any comment because of the legal ramifications.”

Retired Youngstown police Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey, diocese victim assistance coordinator, said in November the purported victim was a minor at the time of the alleged incidents but is now an adult.

The Diocese said in November its Diocesan Review Board had recommended to Youngstown Bishop George V. Murry that further investigation be done to determine the credibility of the allegations against Bouchard, who was pastor of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish on Scoville Drive in Vienna.

The board includes a psychologist, representatives of the Trumbull and Mahoning County Children Services boards, attorneys, medical doctors, the dean of the college of health and human services at Youngstown State University, a Lutheran pastor, a Catholic priest and a parent.

Another pastor is assigned to the parish. Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish is staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which celebrates the liturgy in the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite used before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council,” according to its website. The Vienna location also has a school, St. Joseph the Protector Learning Center.

The suit states Bouchard’s accuser submitted a handwritten note to the Diocese on Sept. 26, 2018, alleging that Bouchard “asked him to undress and made inappropriate sexual comments.”

It says the accuser followed that up Oct. 3, 2018, with an email to the diocese alleging Bouchard “engaged in inappropriate behavior including unbuttoning his shirt and unzipping his pants.”

The suit, filed by Atty. Craig Pelini of North Canton, states the alleged victim also emailed the Diocese Oct. 12, 2018, providing additional details about Bouchard’s conduct, and the alleged victim’s mother provided written correspondence to the diocese “alleging her son has been sexually victimized by” Bouchard.

“The allegations are false” and “defamatory,” the suit says, adding that the accusers and diocese defamed Bouchard through their communications and / or to the general public. It alleges the defendants were reckless in their conduct and acted with malice. Bouchard suffered “humiliation, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of employment and loss of self esteem,” the suit says.

The suit seeks damages of at least $50,000 from each of the defendants and “full reinstatement into the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.”

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