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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Priest faces third sex abuse lawsuit

Virginia De Leon Staff writer

A retired Jesuit priest now living in Spokane is facing a third lawsuit in Alaska alleging sexual abuse of a child.

The Rev. James Poole, 81, allegedly harassed and molested “Jane Doe 3” when she was a teenager in the late 1960s, according to the claim filed this week in Alaska’s Nome Superior Court. The victim is also seeking damages from Poole’s religious order, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, and the Diocese of Fairbanks.

Three other women have come forward in the past two years with allegations against Poole.

One of them, Elsie Boudreau, of Anchorage, received a $1 million settlement earlier this year. Half of the amount came from the Fairbanks Diocese; the other half was paid by the Oregon Province, which is affiliated with Gonzaga University and responsible for numerous ministries in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska. The $500,000 from the Jesuits was one of the highest settlements ever paid out by the Oregon Province.

Boudreau, the first one to file a suit, said she was a 10-year-old in Nome when the priest first molested her in the late 1970s. The abuse continued until she was 19 years old.

During his 40-year career in Alaska, Poole was assigned to work in several remote Alaskan villages including Pilot Station, Mountain Village, St. Mary’s and Barrow. He was best known in the area for establishing KNOM, an award-winning Catholic radio station in Nome.

Poole, 81, now lives at Regis Community, a home for retired Jesuits on North Astor Road on the Gonzaga campus. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday. His voice mail indicated that he was “away from my room” until the weekend.

In earlier interviews, the Rev. John Whitney – the Jesuit provincial and leader of the roughly 250 Jesuits in the Pacific Northwest – said Poole is never allowed to leave the building unless he is accompanied by another Jesuit. The staff at Regis also carefully monitors his actions, Whitney said, and Poole is never left alone with visitors. His primary job is to tend the graves of Jesuits at Mount St. Michael’s cemetery.

After Boudreau filed her suit in March 2004, a second claim against Poole was filed later that summer in Bethel Superior Court by “Jane Doe 2.” According to that suit, the priest allegedly impregnated her at age 14 and told her to “get rid of the baby” by telling her mother it was her dad who got her pregnant. The girl ended up getting an abortion, according to the claim.

Attorneys for the Jesuits are attempting to get that lawsuit dismissed, claiming that the statute of limitations has expired, said Ken Roosa, an Anchorage attorney representing the alleged victims. Roosa, however, is opposing the Jesuits’ motion for summary judgment.

Another woman, Patricia Hess, of Anchorage, reached an undisclosed settlement last December with the Oregon Province and the Fairbanks Diocese before filing a lawsuit.

The latest lawsuit claims that Poole started molesting Jane Doe 3 when she was in the eighth grade. When she was 15 in July 1969, the priest allegedly took the girl into a dark hallway of the church rectory and raped her.

Roosa said Poole has molested other girls in addition to the four who have come forward. He also knows of at least six women who say that Poole sexually assaulted them when they worked at KNOM radio station. Roosa considers the priest a threat to children, as well as “any woman he can get his hands on.”