The Buffalo Diocese has offered a $650,000 settlement to a man who accused a priest of aiming a gun at his head and molesting him when he was a child in the 1980s.
It’s the highest settlement offer revealed publicly to date under the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, topping a $400,000 offer.
Amherst attorney Steve Boyd said Tuesday that his client will “take his time” in considering the award. He has 60 days to decide whether to accept it and give up his right to sue the diocese over the alleged abuse by the Rev. Michael R. Freeman.
“We respectfully think the full value of this case if brought to a jury would be significantly higher,” said Boyd.
Boyd said his client does not want to be identified by name. He is 49 and lives outside the Western New York area.
The man alleged in a claim submitted to the diocese earlier this year that Freeman pointed a gun at him when he was a teenage boy to force him to have sexual contact with the priest.
The sexual abuses are alleged to have happened after diocese officials were told that Freeman had molested other boys and young men, but kept him in ministry.
Freeman was serving as associate pastor at St. Mary parish in Lancaster in the mid-1980s when the abuses allegedly happened.
The man also said in his claim that Freeman provided absolution of the boy’s sins immediately following the acts of abuse, according to Boyd.
The man said that Freeman, a former Buffalo police and military chaplain, regularly carried a silver-plated .38-caliber revolver. If the teen did not participate willingly in the sex abuse, the priest would jokingly threaten him with the revolver, Boyd said.
Boyd’s client also accused Freeman of paying a male prostitute in Toronto to have sex with them both.
The abuse began in 1984 or 1985 and continued through the victim’s high school years, said Boyd.
Buffalo Diocese officials knew in 1981 that Freeman had a history of abuse, according to a Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August.
One of Freeman's accusers told The News that he first notified the diocese about Freeman in the early 1980s. The man, Paul Barr of Niagara Falls, said Freeman molested him in 1980 in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church in Niagara Falls.
Freeman died in 2010 at age 63.
Freeman’s abuses of his client, said Boyd, were “completely and totally preventable if the people in charge of the diocese had done the right and moral thing from the beginning, which was to call the police.”
Three other clients of Boyd also received settlement offers this week. All of Boyd’s clients met about two weeks ago with the two retired judges administering the awards, Jerome Gorski and Barbara Howe.
Boyd said $100,000 was offered to a man who alleged abuse by the Rev. Denman Dewey in the early 1960s and later on by another priest, the Rev Richard Keppeler. Two other clients each were offered $60,000 for their claims. One client alleged abuse by the Rev. Martin L. Pavlock in 1983; the other accused Rev. Louis Hendricks of molesting him in the late 1960s.