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Originally published May 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 5, 2009 at 12:13 AM

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Jury selection to begin Wednesday in Seattle Archdiocese sex-abuse trial

Jury selection is expected to start Wednesday in the area's first clergy sexual-abuse trial involving the Seattle Archdiocese.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Jury selection is expected to start Wednesday in the area's first clergy sexual-abuse trial involving the Seattle Roman Catholic Archdiocese — one of only a handful of such trials nationwide since the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal broke in 2002.

The trial, to be held in King County Superior Court, involves Patrick O'Donnell, a former priest in the Spokane Diocese who served at Seattle's St. Paul Church from 1976 to 1978.

O'Donnell was removed from ministry in the mid-1980s and has admitted to molesting at least 30 boys.

The trial involves two of four men who, in a 2005 lawsuit, accused Seattle Archdiocese leaders of failing to protect them from O'Donnell during the time he was a priest at St. Paul's.

O'Donnell had been sent by the Spokane bishop to Seattle in 1976 for sexual-deviancy treatment after an allegation arose in Spokane.

While in Seattle, O'Donnell also earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Washington. In recent years, he practiced psychology in Bellevue, treating patients 12 and older until 2002, when the state began investigating allegations of his past abuse of minors. He surrendered his state psychology license in 2004.

O'Donnell has been named in numerous lawsuits and has been accused of molesting altar boys, students and Boy Scouts.

Claims against him played a large part in the Spokane Diocese's bankruptcy filing in 2004. O'Donnell was named in 66 of the 176 bankruptcy-court claims alleging sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, more than any other single priest. Victims have accused Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of failing to prevent O'Donnell from molesting children, even after they complained repeatedly. Skylstad supervised O'Donnell years ago.

The plaintiffs in the Seattle case say — and at least one Spokane Diocese leader has contended — that the Seattle Archdiocese was informed of O'Donnell's history when he was sent to Seattle in the 1970s.

Seattle Archdiocese leaders say otherwise. Former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen "has repeatedly and emphatically stated that he had no knowledge of past abuse by Patrick O'Donnell," said Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni.

The other two plaintiffs in the 2005 lawsuit have settled.

Seattle Archdiocese officials said they have made what they believe to be reasonable offers to the remaining two plaintiffs, and they are still hoping to settle with them. All four of the Seattle plaintiffs have reached settlements with the Spokane Diocese involving the same abuse.

Plaintiffs' attorney Timothy Kosnoff said, "We believe the issues that will be addressed at trial are of paramount concern to the community because they involve the protection of children from sexual abuse."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272. Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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