Trial of Sex-Offender Priest at an End
Civil Proceedings in $4m Lawsuit Filed against Thomas O'Dell Wraps up This Week

By Denis St. Pierre
The Sudbury Star [Canada]
June 23, 2003

Local News - The civil trial of a former Sudbury-area priest who committed perverse crimes against young boys is nearing an end.

Lawyers in the trial of Rev. Father Thomas O'Dell will make their final submissions to a Superior Court judge on Thursday and Friday in a downtown Toronto courtroom.

O'Dell, 56, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie are being sued for $4 million in damages by a Sudbury man who was between 10 and 15 when he was abused by the priest in the 1980s.

The lawsuit claims O'Dell is liable for sexual assault, battery, negligence and breach of his fiduciary duty to the victim.

The suit also accuses the diocese of negligence by not ensuring the priest conducted himself properly in carrying out his religious duties.

O'Dell already has been convicted in criminal court for the abuse, which included sodomizing the boy with a crucifix and pinning the naked youth to the church altar and forcing him to perform oral sex.

The Catholic priest was convicted of gross indecency and indecent assault and sentenced to 30 months in prison. He appealed his conviction, unsuccessfully, and is serving his sentence at the Kingston Penitentiary.

O'Dell previously served a six-month jail sentence for sexually abusing other young boys. In 1992, he was convicted of indecently assaulting two brothers.

The abuse included attaching a string-and-pulley system to the boys' genitals.

The $4-million civil trial against O'Dell and the diocese which employed him began several months ago.

During the trial, the victim, now in his 30s, testified that repeated abuse by O'Dell led to numerous problems in his life.

During the period he was being abused by O'Dell, the priest took pictures and warned he would make the pictures public if he told anyone, the man testified.

O'Dell also threatened that he would molest the boy's brother if he did not keep quiet, he said. The priest also warned the boy that he would be eaten alive or burn in hell if he revealed their relationship, he added.

The man, who cannot be named due to a court-imposed ban, said the emotional and physical toll of the assaults saw him descend into alcohol abuse and attempt suicide. He said he lost his faith in God, his relationships with his parents, siblings and others suffered and he has been unable to hold down a job because he cannot concentrate.

During cross-examination, O'Dell's lawyer suggested that some of the man's problems predated the sexual abuse.

The lawyer referred to school report cards and remarks from the man's former teachers and suggested he already was a chronically underachieving student. The pattern for his inability to hold down even the most menial of jobs as an adult had been set before he met O'Dell, the lawyer said.

The case has been heard by Superior Court Justice Katherine Swinton. After final submissions are made this week, the judge is expected to set a date when she will issue her ruling.

-- With files from Canadian Press


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