Alleged Pell abuse victim to sue over Ballarat swimming claims

pell in chair Cardinal George Pell speaks with CNA at the Vatican March 17 2016. | Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

A man who says he was sexually assaulted in the 1970s by Australia's Cardinal George Pell says he will file a lawsuit against the cardinal, after prosecutors scuttled a plan to try Pell for the alleged abuse.

The man, whose name has not been disclosed, claims that Pell touched him inappropriately while playing with him in the swimming pool of a Church-run boys' home where he resided. The man, referred to by his attorney as "David," is now 50. He lived at the boys' home from 1974 to 1978, leaving the home before he was ten years old.  Pell was at that time a priest serving in Ballarat, Australia.

Pell was convicted last year of five counts of sexual abuse, stemming from charges that he sexually assaulted two choir boys in a cathedral in the 1990s, while Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne. He was expected to face a second trial concerning allegations that in the 1970s he sexually assaulted two other boys in the Ballarat swimming pool. Prosecutors dropped that case before trial, citing insufficient evidence.

Charges related to "David's" claim were dropped weeks before prosecutors decided to scuttle the entire trial.

The cardinal is now incarcerated, awaiting sentencing after a court hearing last week related to his previous trial.

"David" alleges that he was also abused by a nun who staffed the boys' home. In addition to Pell, he plans to include the nun's religious order, the Sisters of Nazareth, along with the Australian state of Victoria and the Archdiocese of Melbourne in his lawsuit.

"David's" attorney told the Guardian that the man "was devastated when the prosecution decided not to proceed with the case."

Pell is appealing his criminal conviction. Melbourne law professor Jeremy Gans told the Guardian last week that there is a good chance Pell's appeal will succeed, in large part because there was only one key witness in the prosecution's case.

While many figures in Australian media have applauded Pell's conviction, some Australians have called it into question, prompting considerable debate across the country.

Paul Kelly, editor-at large at The Australian, said last week that "the implausibility of the evidence" against Pell "raises serious doubts" that the cardinal had a fair trial.

Other observers have expressed similar sentiments. Well-known Australian crime reporter John Silvester argued in The Age that "if Pell did molest those two teenagers in the busy cathedral, it certainly does not fit the usual pattern of paedophile priests."

"Pell has become a lightning rod in the worldwide storm of anger at a systemic cover-up of priestly abuses. But that doesn't make him a child molester," Silvester said.

When Sky News Australia commentator Andrew Bolt announced that he would defend Pell on his television program Feb. 26, the network pulled all advertising from the broadcast, to ensure that advertisers would not be connected to the discussion.

"Sky News is committed to providing a platform for robust debate and discussion and is not afraid to tackle confronting and controversial issues," a spokeswoman for the network told the Weekly Beast.

"Sky News recognised that the controversial topic of George Pell's conviction to be covered by one of its highest-rating commentators may have presented an environment that left advertisers open to campaigns by activists.

"A proactive decision was made to replace advertisements during Tuesday night's program."

"David" has not yet filed a lawsuit. Attorneys say that he will seek damages for psychological harm, lost wages, and medical expenses. Attorney also say they will call as witnesses other men who allege Pell sexually assaulted them in a similar fashion.

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Pell has denied the accusations.

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