Priest seeks to enforce settlement in man’s suit alleging sexual assault as a minor

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Nov 2, 2018

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church  

A St. Louis priest filed a motion to enforce a settlement with a former parishioner who alleges he was sexually assaulted as a minor in the 1970s.

Fr. Dennis Zacheis filed a motion to enforce settlement on Oct. 9 through attorney Gary Meadows of HeplerBroom in Edwardsville.

He argues that the parties agreed in February to an open-ended extension of time for the defendant to respond and in order to determine could be settled.

The parties allegedly agreed to a confidential settlement on April 18.

Frederick Nessler of Springfield was representing plaintiff Gary Klein at the time and approved a three-page release on May 22 with a suggested change that a “portion of the consideration should be specifically allocated to the confidentially provision for tax purposes,” the motion states.

Meadows asked Nessler on Aug. 7 when he expected to return the signed release.

The motion states that about 10 days later, Nessler advised Meadows that the plaintiff was unwilling to sign the release because it contained a general denial of the claims of any wrongdoing.

The language that Klein was opposed to was removed “despite the fact that such language is routine in such settlements,” and the revised release was sent to Nessler on Sept. 18.

Two days later, Nessler contacted Meadows and advised that he would no longer be representing Klein and that the release had not been signed.

“It is still necessary, however, to complete the agreed upon settlement so that the instant case can be dismissed with prejudice,” the motion states.

Zacheis seeks an order requiring Klein to take any necessary actions to complete the settlement.

The Law Offices of Frederick W. Nessler & Associates LTD filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Klein on Sept. 20 “due to irreconcilable differences.”

The motion states the Klein has terminated the law office from further representation of him in his suit against Zacheis.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge granted the motion to withdraw on Oct. 25.

Klein was 55 years old when he filed his complaint on Nov. 15 against Zacheis.

In his complaint, Klein alleges he was raised “within a staunchly Roman Catholic family” and was a parish member of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church.

During that time, he claims he was sexually assaulted by Zacheis as a minor between 1975 and 1978 while Zacheis was employed as an associate pastor at the St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He alleges that he was between 13 and 17 years old when Zacheis assaulted him by putting his hand down the front of the minor’s pants, grabbing and hugging from behind while humping and rubbing his backside, fondling the boy’s genitals, masturbating in front of the minor child and attempting oral sex and other unwanted sexual advances.

The acts allegedly occurred in various locations, including inside a motor vehicle traveling on the roadways of Madison County, local restaurants and bars and possibly hotel rooms in the area.

Klein claims his memories of the alleged abuse were repressed and suppressed but he began to remember and recollect the events in 2016.

As an ordained Roman Catholic priest, Zacheis was expected to supervise minors in their activities at the church and school and teach them “to act in a manner consistent with the ideals and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” the suit states.

Klein alleges he was instructed as a child to be obedient to priests and to believe that it would be wrong to make any accusations against a priest.

“In addition, plaintiff and others were taught and instructed that Church issues and scandals were not to be disclosed to the public at large or to law enforcement agencies and that any such scandals were to remain strictly secret.

“’Good’ Catholics, such as plaintiff and his family, were taught and believed that such issues would be handled internally by the Church, and that it was un-Christian and counter to the tenets of the faith to make any public allegations against the Church or any priest.

“In fact, to disclose any such issue or scandals could result in excommunication,” the suit states.

Klein alleges he has suffered and continues to suffer severe and permanent emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation and other injuries.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 17-L-1565

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HeplerBroom Law Offices of Frederick W. Nessler

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