In the news today, the attorneys for the Archdiocese of Agana and Archbishop Apuron have asked the Superior Court of Guam to dismiss the defamation and libel lawsuit. According to the Pacific Daily News:
Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron and Archbishop Savio Tai Fai Hon this week asked the Superior Court of Guam to dismiss a $2 million libel and slander lawsuit against them, arguing Apruon’s statements about those accusing him of sexual assault are opinions that are not defamatory and have no legal grounds for a lawsuit.
In a 24-page motion to dismiss, apostolic administrator Hon, through his attorney Jeffrey Cook argued that Apuron’s denial of the sexual assault claims is not defamatory, Apuron’s statements are opinions, without legal grounds for a lawsuit, and Apuron’s statements are not about the plaintiffs, the motion states.
Cook also stated the archdiocese has publicly recanted and retracted the statements by Apuron, and will handle the serious allegations of sex abuse.
“As a legal matter, however, the statements complained of do not give rise to any valid cause of action,” Cook stated. “The court should dismiss the complaint.”
Apuron, through his attorney Jacqueline Terlaje, joined Hon’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, uniting with Hon in the matter.
The four people who have accused the 70-year-old archbishop of sexual assault filed the $2 million libel and slander lawsuit against Apuron and Hon in July. Hon was appointed by the Vatican to temporarily run the Guam church, pending an investigation into the allegations made against Apuron.The first of three ex-altar boys to publicly accuse Apuron of child sexual abuse was Roy T. Quintanilla, who accused Apuron of molesting him on May 17. Doris Concepcion was the second person to publicly accuse Apuron of abusing her son, Joseph A. Quinata, when he was an altar boy. Quinata died 11 years ago.
In June, Walter G. Denton came forward and said Apuron raped him, followed by Roland P.L. Sondia who said Apuron molested him.
In July, Quintanilla, Concepcion, Denton and Sondia filed a lawsuit, accusing Apuron and the church of making defamatory statements against them, despite knowing, "there had already been a history of sexual abuse committed by priests in the Agana Archdiocese." Attorney Cook, in his motion to dismiss, noted all the public accusations against Apuron came after an advertisement calling for sexual assault victims was printed in the newspaper.
Apuron issued statements to the media after news of Quintanilla’s claims was published and after Concepcion’s accusations were published, denying the allegations.
Cook argued that only a small portion of Apuron’s May 17 statement is directed at Quinatanilla. “Apuron’s statement as to Quinatanilla was brief, confined itself to the allegations and contained no outrageous language or accusations about Quintanilla but delivered a straight-forward denial,” Cook stated in his motion.
As for Apuron’s statement issued after Concepcion’s allegations were published, Cook argued that portions of his May 31 statement are opinion and non-actionable, or they do not have enough legal grounds for a lawsuit. Concepcion was not named in the statement and the only statements from Apuron about Concepcion were that he strongly denied the accusation and the accusation was false, documents stated.
Cook said Apuron made no statements that affect Denton and Sondia. “Apuron’s administrative powers had been removed before these men came forward and Apuron never made any statements about either of them.”
Cook also argued that the Concerned Catholics of Guam should not be a party in the lawsuit.
Cook also argued the lawsuit fails to cite a valid slander claim regarding Apuron’s May 17 statement and that Quintanilla’s, Concepcion’s, Denton’s and Sondia’s claimed emotional and reputation losses don’t qualify as special damages.