No settlement talks for Apuron until canonical trial decision 1

TERLAJE: Jacqueline Terlaje, legal counsel for suspended archbishop Anthony Apuron, speaks to the media following a scheduling conference for cases involving accusations of child sexual abuse made against Apuron. Neil Pang/The Guam Daily Post

Suspended Archbishop Anthony Apuron has not agreed to any settlement talks as he expects a decision in the ongoing canonical trial as soon as this summer, according to his attorney, Jacqueline Terlaje.

"I've received word that there may be a decision forthcoming but it's always prospective," she said.

Terlaje's announcement came as the District Court of Guam held a status conference yesterday morning on cases involving the suspended leader of the island's Catholic Church.

Walter Denton, Roy Quintanilla, Roland Sondia and Doris Concepcion, on behalf of her late son Sonny Quinata, filed civil suits against Apuron, accusing him of child sex abuse when they were altar boys at the Mount Carmel Church in Agat in the 1970s.

Attorney David Lujan advised the court that he will not file any motion to stay his cases until he has received copies of the Archdiocese of Agana's insurance policy and audited financial statements stretching back to 2010.

Lujan, during a court hearing last week, indicated he might file a motion to stay as his clients consider entering into settlement talks with the Hope and Healing program.

The independently administered Hope and Healing program, organized by the Archdiocese of Agana to hear and decide on sex abuse allegations made against clergy and church staff, reported last week it aims to settle all the cases currently pending in local and federal courts by Sept. 1.

Progress on those settlement negotiations seemed good when Lujan announced his clients' intentions to hear Hope and Healing's offer, but negotiations appear at a standstill now unless Lujan receives the requested documents.

'Not considering a settlement'

Speaking on behalf of Apuron, Terlaje stated her client has not yet agreed to enter into settlement talks.

"My client is not considering a settlement until a decision is reached (in his canonical trial)," she said.

As the court listened to yesterday morning's proceedings and a brief sidebar discussion with parties, Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. agreed that it is important for the plaintiffs to receive the documents pertaining to the church's financials, including the church's insurance policy coverage.

Manibusan also stated that, in an effort not to "rush into things," he wanted to wait on the results of the canonical trial before deciding what direction to take with the cases against Apuron, as the court and parties may be able to utilize the decision reached in the Vatican courts.

As such, the judge ordered a continued abeyance on the dozens of other civil suits filed by Lujan on behalf of his clients, with the exception of the cases involving Apuron, which the court will convene a status hearing on in July.

Whatever verdict does come out of the Vatican, Lujan told the media it would not affect either his pursuit of damages for his clients or the terms of any settlement talks out of court.

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