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DC & Virginia Attorney Generals Open Investigations into Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

By: Joseph Cammarata

Attorney Generals from the District of Columbia and the state of Virginia have announced the opening of an official investigation into sexual abuse allegations against clergy from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Richmond and Arlington. The Washington archdiocese is comprised of churches and schools in DC and five Maryland counties, including Montgomery and Prince George’s County. It is considered one of the Church’s most important U.S. diocese, and is home to the Vatican Embassy.

The investigations, announced a day apart, were prompted by intense public pressure following the release of a high-profile Pennsylvania grand jury report earlier this year. The report revealed accounts of hundreds of Catholic priests abusing children across the state over more than seven decades, as well as the systematic cover-up of abuse and allegations by church leaders. More than 1,000 victims were identified.

Due to the sheer scope and shocking pervasiveness of abuse revealed in the Pennsylvania report, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spoke to the importance of the new investigations, stating it cannot be assumed the abuse and cover-up is limited only to Pennsylvania. An investigation into the Baltimore Archdiocese, announced in late September, is also pending in Maryland.

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Investigations

A total of 13 states, in addition to the District, have launched investigations into the U.S. Catholic Church this year, by far the most extensive involvement with the Church by state and federal law enforcement in history. These investigations, welcomed by advocates and many Catholics alike, are seen as essential, though long overdue, fact-finding missions that will help determine whether abuse occurred, and, if so, the extent to which the Church’s hierarchy actively concealed allegations and shielded priests.

As part of the investigation, officials are also providing victims with the support and resources to make their voices heard. This includes reporting websites created by the District’s Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the Virginia State Police:

Though the investigation in Washington and the two Catholic dioceses in Virginia, may very well result in criminal charges against church officials or clergy, its current focus is civil in nature. Under DC law, the Attorney General’s office has the power to subpoena documents and impose penalties against non-profits for abusing its authority or acting contrary to non-profit purposes. Criminal charges resulting from the inquiry may result in federal charges for felonies, or prosecution by the District for misdemeanors, involving violations of DC’s abuse reporting requirements.

Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions & Victims’ Rights

Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. intends to closely track the investigations, and offers our support to individuals and families who would like more information about their legal rights. As a law firm that has fought for victims across Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland for decades, we know sexual abuse committed by religious leaders and others in position of power is an inexcusable breach of trust, and an unforgettable burden victims must carry throughout their lives.

Though the investigations and reporting services offered by the City and U.S. Attorney are valued investigatory tools, victims will need to take additional steps to pursue compensation for their damages. We can assist victims in navigating the investigation process while aggressively protecting their rights and confidentiality. Our firm understands the sensitive nature of these cases, as well as the need for bold advocacy that ensures transparency, accountability, and justice.

Speak Personally with Proven Sexual Abuse Attorneys. Call: (202) 644-8303

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has cultivated a reputation for compassionate and tenacious advocacy, and for our proven success in protecting the rights of the injured and the wronged. Over the years, we have recovered more than $500 million in compensation for our clients, including a recent $14.25 million settlement secured on behalf of victims who were secretly recorded as they used a religious bath, by former DC Rabbi Bernard Freundel. Our experience with sexual abuse and civil cases, as well as high profile cases involving former President Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby, makes us well positioned to handle these difficult and sensitive claims.

If you would like to learn more about the pending sexual abuse investigation against the Catholic Church, or discuss your rights within the civil justice system, our team is readily available to help. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a free and confidential consultation.