First Civil Suit under Child Victims Act Involving Sexual Abuse on a Reservation Filed

Fr. J Vincent Fitzgerald, who allegedly sexually abused Indian children

Fr. J Vincent Fitzgerald, who allegedly sexually abused Indian children

Father J. Vincent Fitzgerald Allegedly Sexually Abused Children on White Earth, Leech Lake & Lake Traverse Indian Reservations in Minnesota & South Dakota

CROOKSTON, MINNESOTA – An attorney representing an American Indian man, who is now in his 30s and who chooses to remain anonymous –known as “Doe 19” — filed a sexual abuse lawsuit today at the Polk County Courthouse in Crookston, Minnesota against the Catholic Diocese of Crookston and Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based attorney, filed the first civil suit under the Child Victims Act in Minnesota.

The suit alleges sexual abuse by the late Father J. Vincent Fitzgerald at St. Ann’s Parish in Naytawaush, Minnesota, on the White Earth Indian Reservation during the mid-1980s. Fitzgerald died at the age of 89 on September 27, 2009.

The lawsuit names the Diocese of Crookston, and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate alleging  they  were  negligent  in  placing  Fitzgerald  in  parishes  and  communities where he had access to children even after learning that Fitzgerald was a known child molester.

“What we know is Father Fitzgerald had a pattern of sexual abuse that dates back to the late 1960s at the Sisseton, South Dakota and the history continued on other reservations throughout his career,” Anderson said the Native News Online on Thursday afternoon.

Father Fitzgerald was assigned to the Indian Mission at Sisseton, South Dakota and was assigned to the White Earth, Leech Lake and Lake Traverse Indian Reservations in Minnesota.

“What we did today was important because other victims who have lived with their secrets can come forward share these secrets safely,” continued Anderson. “We know there was a pattern of sexual abuse and his superiors kept them secret to avoid scandal. This is significant and there is reason to be concerned about the secrecy.”

While the victim for whom the lawsuit was filed today chooses to remain anonymous, Doe 19 released this written statement today:

Doe 19 Statement

I am taking this action today to make sure that other kids are not abused. Father Fitzgerald sexually abused me when I was 8 or 9 years old. I have struggled at times since then – feeling down and not wanting to go on.

I encourage other people abused on the White Earth Reservation and other reservations to come forward confidentially. Together we can get some of our power back and make sure that children are better protected in the future.

The 15-page lawsuit maintains the plaintiff, Doe 19, suffered, “special, particular and peculiar harm after he learned of the Diocese’s concealment of its list of priests credibly accused of sexually molesting minors, which continues as long as the list remains concealed. As a result of the concealment, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer lessened enjoyment of his life, impaired health, emotional distress, and/or physical symptoms of emotional distress. He has also experienced depression, anxiety, and anger.”

The lawsuit has given the defendants 20 days to respond to the suit and asked Doe 19 be paid $50,000 for the suffering he has incurred as the result of the alleged sexual abuse by Father Fitzgerald.

Attorney Jeff Anderson asks that others who may have been sexually abused by Father Fitzgerald contact his law office:

Jeff Anderson, Attorney at Law

36 Jackson Street – Suite 180

St. Paul, Minnesota 55101


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