A man who accused a former student activities director at a Roman Catholic school of sexual abuse against him while he was a child has settled his lawsuit with the Franciscan Friars of California and the Diocese of Las Vegas.
According to a report from Whittier Daily News, Tim Coonce, 38, will receive $600,000 as part of the settlement. The man he accused, 53-year-old Thomas Thing, has never admitted to his alleged crimes and all statute of limitations had expired by the time Coonce filed his lawsuit. Thing was also previously named in a sexual abuse lawsuit in 1993 but no charges were ever filed against him for the same reason.
The church decided to settle this latest lawsuit because it said it felt “there is such a prejudice against them in the community.” In addition to the monetary compensation, the Franciscan Friars are now required to hand over all Thing’s personnel records within a month.
Thing is currently employed as a student activities director at University of the West in Rosemead, Calif. The report indicates there is no certainty whether or not he currently interacts with minors through his job duties at that school. The west coast Diocese, based in Santa Barbara, has been accused in the past of covering up sexual abuse crimes, just as many other Roman Catholic diocese across the country. And just like in many other cases, the statute of limitations has expired for those who claim they were sexually abused as children through various roles within the church but they have been successful in charging those in charge of the church with ignoring or covering the crimes, typically moving an alleged sexual predator to another church.
Thing was named as part of a 1993 lawsuit in which another man claimed he was sexually abused for nearly a decade in the 1970s and 1980s while he was a student at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara. That lawsuit was eventually settled out of court and clearly Thing was still allowed to serve the church. Rather than face those charges, the church transferred Thing to Nevada
In the most recent allegations, Thing allegedly abused Coonce while he was a student at St. Christopher’s Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nev. Both allegations centered on camping trips that were sponsored by the schools where Thing was employed. During each, Thing assaulted the boys, including forcing Coonce into “oral copulation,” according to the report.
As previously indicated, the Franciscans have long been accused of hiding sexual predators in its ranks. In 2006, the church paid out at least $28 million to other alleged victims of sexual abuse while they were children serving the church.
While it has been more than a decade since a barrage of sexual abuse claims were filed against Roman Catholic church officials in the U.S., the church continues to deny and fight charges against new victims who’ve come forward also claiming they were abused. In many instances, the statute of limitations has expired where those accused of the abuse are forced to answer the charges but victims have begun filing charges against higher church officials for failing to report these crimes when the allegations were originally made, instead opting to shift the accused to another church where they often committed their crimes again.